If you build it, they will come

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor built a $2 million stage for a production that runs less than two months out of the year.When the stage is struck, the props and seating put into storage, and the venue reverts to view.

Yet the festival holds a 20-year lease on the state park site,with a 20-year option to renew.

That translates into a lot of down time.

And nature abhors a vacuum, especially vacant real estate.

The solution? Rent the venue to shows wanting to draw demographics similar to those who attend the Shakespeare festival.

When this year's run of the Bard ends on Aug.

21, the stage won't stay dark for long.

In late August, the Tahoe-Reno International Film Festival rents the venue.

In September, the Sierra Nevada Ballet takes the stage, followed by the Lake Tahoe Food & Wine Festival.

In June, Chautauqua has a run.

But these are all short runs of several days.

That may change.

"The long-term objective of the Shakespeare Festival and its board of directors is to maximize the use of the venue," says Katherine Attack, executive director.

Talks are in progress with the Reno Philharmonic, Nevada Opera and the Lake Tahoe Music Festival.

It may even add a new event of its own: a contemporary play to run alongside the Shakespearean.

After 33 years, locals have come to view the annual Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor as a reliable, genteel, yet unpretentious maiden aunt.Atack looks to yank the event into step with the regional marching band blaring "America's Adventure Place." She looks to attendance at the Bard's event in Utah as an attainable benchmark.

The nationally-known Ashland, Ore.

festival? Way too big to emulate.

For now.

Atack brings a background in public relations and marketing to the job in addition to the wider view provided by her personal background, having lived in England and New York City.

"The five boroughs of New York worked together as an entity to attract people to one destination," she recalls.

Then she notes that during her brief five years in this area, she's seen the region pedal through three different positionings."The Regional Marketing Committee finally brought it together," she says.

Its pitch: Fly Reno-Tahoe.

That's key, she says, because the most important marketing consideration is: Can tourists get here? She wants them to get here from the Los Angeles market.

That goal in mind, the festival will put its Bay Area marketing into maintenance mode while adding aggressive marketing in the southern California arena.

It's an area that already makes up 8 percent of attendance with zero effort.

The test:What would happen if it were fueled with some promotion? If success depends on who you know,Atack is well-positioned to make the most of the festival's world-class venue.

She serves as vice chair of the Parasol Community Collaboration's management team.

(About 50 Tahoe-area nonprofits comprise the membership of the umbrella group funded by the Parasol Foundation.) She's in tune with marketing efforts by the Regional Marketing Committee (Reno, Carson City,Minden-Gardnerville and Lake Tahoe) and the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.

The pieces are in place to tie the Shakespeare Festival into group efforts to promote the region.


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