Two ways to change your attitude at Lake Tahoe

I'm sure there are many fine activities available at Sand Harbor, but last week I enjoyed the two most refreshing -- a play and a swim.

Both took my breath away.

When it's a 90-plus-degree day in Carson City, there is nothing more invigorating than a dip in Lake Tahoe, which is as famously cold as it is famously blue.

I've been there on days when the water was frigid enough to turn my skin roughly the same shade as the lake. That's a little too invigorating for me.

I'd rather not swim on days when I come out of the water shaking like a dog.

But when I say the water temperature now is perfect, I mean it took about 10 seconds to wash away a summer's worth of drought and smoke and sweat. As a cure for what ails a fatigued body, there's nothing quite like the healing waters of Lake Tahoe.

For a fatigued mind -- too much bad news in the newspaper, too much insipid television, too much stress -- I highly recommend one of the Shakespeare comedies running through Aug. 25 at Sand Harbor.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is in its 30th year, so I would hope everybody is aware of it.

Nevertheless, this is what I hear from people who have never gone: "Oh, I'm not a big fan of Shakespeare." Or, "I'm not really into those highbrow art things."


When I'm sitting on a low-backed lawn chair in the sand amphitheater, a drink in my hand and the stage before me, I like to think I'm seeing Shakespeare as it was meant to be seen -- the popular entertainment of the day.

The crowd is rowdy and raucous, dressed in proper beach gear and lugging ice chests full of dinner and beverages. These are, after all, comedies. Anybody shows up in a tux, I'd like to think the audience -- and the actors, I'd wager -- would toss them in the lake.

We saw "Taming of the Shrew," and it was a scream. Nevada City's Foothills Theater Co. likes to have as much fun with Shakespeare as the Bard had with words.

In this production, the setting has been moved to Trinidad, Jamaica, and Kate the Shrew is being pursued by Petruchio the Pirate.

This definitely contributes an "Aaaargh" to his accent and some swashbuckle to Shakespeare's original version. Foothills Theater Co., in its sixth year at Sand Harbor, also likes to keep enough slapstick going on stage to make a Marx Brother envious, and the play moves along at a pace that won't bore whatever generation we're calling teenagers these days.

In fact, we had an 8-year-old in our group, and she had no trouble following the plot, the language and plenty of the jokes.

The joke she remembered best, though, wasn't written by Shakespeare. I'm not going to give it away here, but you'll know it when you hear it from one of the pirates.

The jokes I'm hoping she didn't get were Shakespeare's bawdier bits, which the Foothills actors do their best to amplify.

"Shrew" is playing on alternate nights with "Twelfth Night," which I'm told is also excellent. I may even try to see that one, as well. (To find out more about the plays, tickets and so on, go to and click on "Shakespeare" under the special events. Follow the links from there.)

This year, the festival also is offering a kids' version of "Midsummer Nights Dream." If you're worried about the regular performances keeping the little ones up too late at night, these are the performances to check out.

There is no charge for the kids shows, although it costs $6 to park at Sand Harbor.

Talk about your bargains.

I hear the Shakespeare Festival doesn't draw well from Reno, which surprises me. I'll bet there are as many people who are willing to drive from the Bay Area as from the Truckee Meadows. They don't know what they're missing.

But if you can swing a day off -- it is summer, after all -- the best plan is to get Shakespeare tickets for a weekday. Spend the afternoon cooling off in the lake, then enjoy the play in the evening.

As they say, Shakespeare may have provided the comedies, but Lake Tahoe provides the drama.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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