"Parting is such sweet sorrow."
-- William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet"
Livermore Shakespeare Festival is leaving Wente Vineyards after five years of performing Shakespeare-in-the-round outdoors at the winery.
Founding artistic director Lisa Tromovitch expressed gratitude toward Wente for hosting them for "the past five years of laughter, love and drama."
Next year the Shakespeare company moves down the road to a more traditional stage at Darcie Kent Vineyards, another family owned and run winery.
"Darcie and David Kent have been friends of Livermore Shakes for many years," Tromovitch said. "Their daughter Kailyn was an early intern with the company many years ago. ... The family relationships and sense of community in Livermore have made our company possible these past 17 years."
Livermore Shakespeare in the Vineyard began in 2002 in a parking lot at Concannon Vineyard. The program moved to Retzlaff Winery for 2004-07, then returned to Concannon, setting up in front of its Queen Anne-style Victorian, from 2008-14.
But acoustics were strained, Tromovitch said, as the audience grew, and in 2015 the company moved to Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room for a five-year experiment, increasing the seating capacity to 300 by performing "in-the-round."
"I loved it," Tromovitch said, adding that it was the only Bay Area theater in-the-round, which brings audience members closer to the stage. "Some didn't like it -- and some came around."
Malcolm Rodgers is designing the set for Darcie Kent, adjacent to the barrel room.
"We will be yards from the actual grapes," Tromovitch said. "The stage is in front of you, and to the right and left there are vineyards. It is just beautiful."
Being set against the barrels will improve the acoustics, she said, explaining that outdoor theater is always tricky due to sounds from wind, owls and traffic.
"I don't like miking actors; they should be able to be heard," she said. "I like to hire actors who have voice training."
Microphones, however, are placed along the edge of the stage.
"Every time we move, we have to look at the natural sound barriers and where is the sun setting," Tromovitch said. "The new site has a barrel room on the side, a great wind break right there. We still have to deal with a little bit of the sun -- the last 20-30 minutes we might have a glow in the sky but not the sun in our eyes."
Outdoor theaters also have lighting challenges, and sets need to be put up for each performance then taken down; props and costumes must be tucked away each night, away from rain, sprinklers and daytime winery visitors. Livermore Shakes moved into a new office on Railroad Avenue in Livermore in June, which includes a rehearsal space, costume and props storage, and a shop to make sets.
"The premise is actually that in Shakespeare's day it was always outdoors -- although in England people were used to being cold and wet," Tromovitch said with a laugh. "Now we expect air-conditioning."
The audience has continued to grow since 2002, one reason for the moves, and the new venue will seat a few more than 300.
"Approximately 39% of our audience comes from outside the Tri-Valley -- San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, Tracy, Fremont," Tromovitch said. "It's special to have your outdoor theater in a winery."
The company gives about 20 performances per season, starting in late June or early July and running through the beginning of August.
This season they performed Shakespeare's "Othello" as well as "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised," written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield.
"I like experimenting with new things, and I think a lot of our audience members like new experiences," Tromovitch said. "Younger audiences certainly want new experiences, and they won't return if you don't provide something exciting."
Five years ago, Livermore Shakes began a 10-week program to introduce all Livermore school district second-graders to Shakespeare. This has resulted in youngsters bringing their parents to the performances, Tromovitch said.
At Darcie Kent Vineyards, picnicking before the show will be encouraged.
"The picnic area under the beautiful pepper tree is tucked into the L-shaped wraparound porch of the tasting room," Tromovitch noted.
For more information, visit livermoreshakes.org.