A very big “something” will be taking place Nov. 13 through 15 when Shakespeare’s prestigious Globe Theatre of London settles into the Barrel Room at the Culinary Institute of America for four captivating performances of the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing.”
For lucky ticket-holders, everything about these extraordinary, first-class experiences will be seamless — from preshow food and wine pairing options to the critically acclaimed acting by many of classical theater’s finest artists (think “Downton Abbey” and “Wolf Hall”).
“I knew it wouldn’t work unless we brought the best in the world,” said Laura Rafaty, the indefatigable producer/artistic director of NapaShakes, the nonprofit organization bringing the production to St. Helena.
“Napa Valley residents are very discriminating and they want the finest, so I developed a plan to bring the world’s greatest interpreters of Shakespeare and classical theater here through NapaShakes.”
Rafaty’s determination and resourcefulness have ensured our good fortune: Napa Valley will be one of only two U.S. stops on the Globe’s international tour, and her past relationship with the company helped seal the deal for this return engagement (NapaShakes presented “King Lear” at the Lincoln Theater last December).
“Shakespeare’s Globe is one of the few classical theater companies who actively tour,” she shared, “and not with multimillion-dollar productions, but small touring companies, similar to the way companies toured in Shakespeare’s day.”
“The Globe’s touring model with small casts, usually eight actors who play multiple roles, creates a very intimate feel that connects to and grabs hold of audiences. The CIA Barrel Room is going to provide an experience just as Shakespeare intended it — only 250 audience members in an atmospheric and historic stone winery, sitting around a set shipped from England with actors who have been classically trained and recruited by one of the most respected and revered theater companies in the world. That’s the kind of Shakespearean experience you rarely get to see in this country.”
Behind the local scenes, getting to opening curtain for Rafaty and her team will have been “love’s labor,” requiring grit, stamina, patience, passion and dollars.
“The challenge of bringing shows like ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ from the Globe is the cost and the sheer amount of work involved,” Rafaty admitted. “We have a big budget, a volunteer staff and board, but are too new an organization to have a lot of funding in hand, so ticket prices are driven by the size of the venue and the number of seats we have to sell to cover our ‘nut.’
“We are in negotiations to bring some incredible theater here, with a couple of partnerships we think are going to surprise and thrill audiences, but we need the Napa Valley to take a bit of a leap of faith with us. We are only interested in bringing and creating productions that bring Shakespeare and his kings, queens and characters to vivid life, whether portrayed live onstage here in the Napa Valley, or in live performance captured on film, or which use classical theater as inspiration for a symphonic or dance performance, perhaps paired with a narration of Shakespeare’s sonnets or poetry.”
“We are approaching the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, but we want to prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old Bard yet!”
For tickets, visit napashakes.org/tickets.