Livermore Shakespeare Festival at Wente Vineyards. (Gregg Le Blanc)

Pair booze with The Bard at Livermore Shakespeare Festival

The critically acclaimed Livermore Shakespeare Festival returns for its fourth year at Wente Vineyards with five weekends of poetry and pairings in a magical outdoor setting, starting June 28th.

Several thousand Bay Area theater lovers will descend upon the Tri-Valley this summer for two shows: one Shakespearean, and one not-so-much.

Jared Corbin Manders and William Hoeschler in 'The Importance of Being Earnest.' Costumes by Jonathan Singer.(Gregg Le Blanc)

The first of the season's offering isn't Shakespeare but rather another wine-swilling poet with a sense of humor: Taking the stage is Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Domenique Lozano, a resident artist with A.C.T. in San Francisco and director of the company's acclaimed annual production of A Christmas Carol. Lozano's vast experience with teaching and directing Wilde's works will lay the foundation for a hysterical play.

"The Importance of Being Earnest is one the wittiest plays I have ever seen. Honestly, anyone who doesn't see it once in their lifetime is missing out," notes box office manager Eric Orosco, a post-graduate apprentice with Livermore Shakes, which has been producing the festival for 16 years.

If you're here for the Shakespeare, you won't be disappointed in producing artistic director Lisa A. Tromovitch's rendition of The Winter's Tale, starring Bay Area actor Aaron Murphy in the role of Leontes, a king whose sudden and baseless jealousy almost destroys his kingdom. The play begins like a tragedy but magic ensues and there's love at the helm, and it all culminates in comedic delight—typical Shakespeare. Livermore Shakes regulars Michael Wayne Rice and Malcolm Rodgers will return to play Camillo and Polyxenes, respectively.

The secret to the Livermore Shakes' success lies in its rehearsal process, where the actors diligently examine the text and history of the plays. "Our motto is 'we do the work so you don't have to,'" remarked managing director Katie Marcel when asked how the company makes Shakespeare accessible to a large audience. "It's absolutely delightful when second graders come up to us after the show and are eager to talk about everything that happened on stage. That's how relatable we make Shakespeare."

With the sunny Tri-Valley region just 35 miles east of San Francisco, the area is a popular destination for city folks seeking a quick weekend getaway. With a burgeoning Beer Trail, more than 50 wineries, charming downtowns, and a diverse culinary scene, live theater enthusiasts can round out their visit to the Livermore Shakespeare Festival with a plethora of unique offerings. For several years, the festival has been the not-so-well-kept secret of the savvy culture seeker who wants top quality theater in an environment that feels like an escape from the daily grind.

Wente Vineyards offers a pre-show food truck and wine bars for guests to enjoy before and during the performances.

// Livermore Shakespeare Festival, June 28 through July 29, at Wente Vineyards Estate Winery and Tasting Room, 5565 Tesla Road (Livermore), wentevineyards.com.