New Swan Shakespeare Festival Presents Two Shakespeare Classics

New Swan - As You Like It

New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s As You Like It. Photos by Paul Kennedy

New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s 5th season is currently featuring two Shakespearean classics, As You Like It and Hamlet, in its mini-Elizabethan theater on the campus of UC Irvine. Since the festival debuted in 2012 the two-play season has grown to include a Music Monday series featuring diverse performances such as “Shakespeare’s Fool” featuring Jason Freddy’s trio, the all-female Mariachi Las Colibrí II, and Mozart Mondays, as well as a seminar series that takes place an hour before curtain.

Eli Simon, New Swan’s artistic director, helms As You Like It, Shakespeare’s beloved comedy of love and disguise, exile and companionship. Simon sets the show in the Depression Era, with original folk music written by Alan Terricciano, and performed by the actors, for an intimate evening of love, fantasy, and companionship…as you like it.

New Swan - Hamlet

New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s Hamlet

Returning for her fourth season with the festival to direct Hamlet is Beth Lopes, associate artistic director of New Swan Shakespeare Festival. At its heart, Hamlet is a ghost story. While most of us push away the shadow of mortality, Hamlet embraces it in the form of his father’s ghost. This ghost is present throughout this production, driving the action forward and forcing his son to grapple with outrageous circumstances.

Lopes says, “We all carry ghosts with us – ghosts which comfort and ghosts which burden – and we can’t always choose which ones we will encounter. Luckily for Hamlet, and for the audience, his father’s ghost appears to us all, and we travel on this journey together as the boy becomes a man … and then a ghost story of his own. This visceral, fast-paced production is perfectly suited for the vulnerable intimacy of the New Swan Theater.”

Please note that, due to the theater configuration, there is no late seating for the performances. For tickets and more information, visit NewSwanShakespeare.com.

The Tempest Closes ISC’s Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival

ISC - THE TEMPEST

Independent Shakespeare Co. follows its dynamic rock ‘n roll production of Richard III in Griffith Park with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, beginning July 30. Thom Rivera will star as Prospero and the show is directed by Matthew Earnest, former assistant director to Adrian Hall and to Lee Breuer at Mabou Mines

Magic, first love, and the forces of revenge intersect on a mysterious island in The Tempest. Prospero has spent 12 years on an island in exile with his daughter, Miranda, all the while plotting to punish his duplicitous brother using sorcery. But when the opportunity presents itself, he learns that magic doesn’t make the man, the world is stranger than it appears, and that perhaps the past is only history.

This is the first time internationally recognized Matthew Earnest will join ISC as a director. Earnest is celebrated for his stylish, innovative approach to re-imagining classic works. He says, “Prospero is the creator of what is essentially a large-scale immersive theater event. Our anachronistic approach to the design renders Time meaningless in the story of a family split apart and trying to reconcile, except, of course, for the painful fact that years lost from ‘our little life’ can never be regained. Our production’s sculpted, choreographic style centers the landscape of the play on the human body, its miracles and its limitations, and it places the evening’s conversation squarely where it belongs, on the ‘bare, forked thing itself’ – mankind, in his unavoidable, immediate present.”

ISC Managing Director David Melville adds, “The Tempest is Shakespeare’s final play; he was very conscious of his own approaching mortality and his retirement from the stage. The Globe was his little island where he led the narrative and created all these fantastic characters, so when Prospero breaks his staff, it’s akin to Shakespeare putting away his quill. The play is a great choice for the festival because, alongside A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare explores the realm of magic and spirits. It’s a family-friendly play with many fantastical elements, great clowns and a wonderful romantic story. Shakespeare explores the idea of family (he often used the relationship of a father and daughter) and he reaches an apotheosis where the father and daughter are stranded on a desert island. Ultimately it’s a play about forgiveness, one of the most powerful things to experience in life and on stage. It’s a moving story that’s very uplifting.”

In addition to Thom Rivera in the role of Prospero, the cast includes Joseph Culliton (Alonso), William Elsman (Sebastian), Lorenzo González (Trinculo), Faqir Hassan (Antonio), Rudy Márquez (Boatswain), David Melville (Stephano), Sean Pritchett (Caliban), Lester Purry (Gonazlo), Evan Lewis Smith (Ferdinand), Erika Soto (Miranda), and Kalean Ung (Ariel), with Patrick Batiste, April Fritz, Jack Lancaster, Tatiana Louder, Nathan Nonhoff, and Stephany Pesta as Sailors, Passengers & Spirits.

Season production design is by Caitlin Lainoff. Season lighting design is by Bosco Flanagan. Costume design is by William Bezek. Composer and sound design is by Chris Porter.

A pre-show Salon Series discussion led by the director will take place on Sunday, July 31 at 6pm.

THE TEMPEST
July 30 – September 4, 2016
Independent Shakespeare Co.
Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival
Old Zoo, Griffith Park (near 4730 Crystal Spring Dr.)
Performance schedule: Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat & Sun at 7pm
More info: www.iscla.org or call 818-710-6306

Children’s Theatre of Long Beach Presents Free Shakespeare in Bixby Park

LB Childrens Midsummer

Children’s Theatre of Long Beach will present a 90-minute performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Bixby Park at the Bandshell Stage, July 22-24. The family-friendly show is produced in partnership with Friends of Bixby Park and offers free admission and an audience participation pre-show. Bring your low-back chars, blankets and a picnic dinner to enjoy in the park and get ready for a fun, physical production full of laughs. It’s a great way to introduce the whole family to Shakespeare!

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
July 22, 23 & 24, 2016
6:00pm
Children’s Theatre of Long Beach
Bixby Park (at the Bandshell Stage)
130 Cherry Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802
More info: www.childrenstheatreoflongbeach.org

T.U. Studios Presents a Rock ‘n Roll Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado

A new production of Much Ado About Nothing featuring a rock ‘n roll score will open at T.U. Studios beginning July 30. Shakespeare’s comedy of love, and the hilarity that ensues when two of his most loved characters, Beatrice and Benedick, engage in a sparring match of words. It was revolutionary for its patriarchal time period for featuring a heroine with a sharp tongue and sparkling wit. This pair would later become the prototype for characters portrayed in 20th Century film comedies by actors like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Gloria Gifford directs a large cast that includes Tracey Ali, Hayley Ambriz, George Benedict, Raven Bowens, Jeff Hamasaki Brown, Billy Budinich, Marlin Chan, Leana Chavez, Heather Compton, Yvette DeVito, Sonia Diaz, Chad Doreck, Justine Estrada, Joshua Farmer, Joe Filippone, Lindy Fujimoto, Dylan George, Keturah Hamilton, Chris Jones, Abigail Kochunas, Christian Maltez, Sam Mansour, Tahlia McCollum, Alex Miller, Maya Moore, Kelly Musslewhite, Benito Pajr, Nakta Pahlevan, Kasia Pilewicz, Lauren Plaxco, Antonio Roccucci, Cynthia San Luis, Deidra Shanell, Danny Siegel, Tejah Signori, Samiyah Swann, Justin Truesdale, Nancy Vivar, Keith Walker, Lucy Walsh, Jade Warner, Teagan Wilson and Sabrina Won.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
New opening date: July 30 – August 21, 2016
T.U. Studios
10943 Camarillo Ave., North Hollywood, CA 91602.
Limited free parking behind the theater
Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7:30 pm.
Tickets and Info: (310) 366-5505 or www.tix.com

Kingsmen’s Upcoming MIDSUMMER has Special Meaning for Director Brett Elliott

Midsummer - Kingsmen

L-R: Pallavi Srinivasan (Peaseblossom), Marc Silver (Bottom) and Nawal Bengholam i(Titania). Photo by Brian Stethem/Cal Lutheran.

It was a moment of art becoming life for Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s associate artistic director, Brett Elliott, when he played Lysander in the festival’s revival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2006. That was the year he proposed to his wife, Jane, onstage while she played opposite him in the role of Hermia.

To make it even more romantic (get ready to swoon ladies) Elliott used only Shakespeare’s text, and neither he nor Jane stopped the scene or broke character. He did add a single prop – a real diamond ring.

For this production, opening July 15, the roles of Lysander and Hermia will be played by Cal Lutheran alumnus Seta Wainiqolo, a graduate student at Yale School of Drama, and Angela Gulner, a graduate of the American Repertory Theater Institute at Harvard University. Gulner played Viola two years ago in the company’s production of Twelfth Night and was last seen as the French princess, Katherine, in Henry V.

Elliott sets the play in a world reminiscent of the British Raj in India at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution because he has long been struck by several references to the Indian subcontinent in the play. He says the setting is “a place where the logic and technology of the West rubs against the art and spirit of the East, where the ancient mingles with the modern, where love crosses all boundaries, and where all who enter the forest emerge changed.” Resident composer Christopher Hoag has created an orchestral score with a Hindustani Classical influence for the play.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors, the mechanicals, who are all controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. It was also the first play performed by Kingsmen Shakespeare Company for its festival in 1997.

In addition to Wainiqolo and Gulner, the cast will also feature returning Kingsmen veterans Andy Babinski as Philostrate, Michael Faulkner as Theseus, Ross Hellwig as Demetrius, Robert Nairn as Starveling, Jason D. Rennie as Puck, Marc Silver as Bottom and John Slade as Quince. Company newcomer Nawal Bengholam will play Titania. Ty Mayberry follows his title role in Henry V by playing Oberon. In another real life coincidence, Mayberry’s two young sons, Lucas and Leo, will make their stage debut as Changelings.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
July 15 – 31, 2016 (8pm)
Kingsmen Park on the Thousand Oaks campus of California Lutheran University
Festival grounds open at 5:30 pm for picnicking and entertainment.
General admission is $20 for adults and free for children under 18. Individual tickets are available at the door only. For lawn box reservations, visit kingsmenshakespeare.org or call 805-493-3452. The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company is the professional theater company of Cal Lutheran.

Review: Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival – The Experience/Richard III

Richard III - ISC

David Melville as Richard III. Photo by Reynaldo Macias

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

How many different ways are there to say how much Angelenos love the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival? Thousands. Ask anyone who’s ever parked themselves on a blanket or lawn chair with their family and friends and you’ll get as many different answers as there are people in the audience.

Some come for the ambience, others to see quality theatre performances at an affordable price (free, but donations are always encouraged). Some simply want to enjoy the sense of community the event fosters, and still others are there to learn, to converse, or to challenge themselves with something new.

Regardless, few would argue that sitting out under the stars listening to Shakespeare’s words is a singularly perfect Los Angeles summer tradition. In case you need more convincing, I’ll give you my Top 5 Reasons to go.  More

Titus Andronicus Joins Summer Rep Season at Theatricum Botanicum, July 30

Titus Andronicus - Theatricum

Sheridan Crist and Melora Marshall. Photo by Ian Flanders

Leave the children at home for Theatricum Botanicum’s upcoming production of Titus Andronicus, opening July 30. In this violent and disturbing saga of vengeance and retribution, director Ellen Geer explores questions of leadership and the relationship between government and its citizens as the company takes on Shakespeare’s earliest tragedy. It is recommended for mature audiences due to adult themes and violence.

When general Titus Andronicus returns from war with prisoners Queen Tamora, her lover and her sons, he hands over Tamora’s eldest son for sacrifice, and so sets off a bloody cycle of violence that swiftly accelerates out of control.

“Here’s a 400-year-old play that outdoes even the unimaginable horrors we hear about daily in today’s news,” says Geer. “At its core, it’s the story of a government gone awry. These leaders haven’t been elected by the people. They have been put into positions of power by political insiders. They don’t answer to their citizens, but to the gods of greed, envy and revenge.”

Titus Andronicus is often seen as Shakespeare’s early attempt to emulate the popular, bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries. According to dramaturg Isabel Smith-Bernstein, Shakespeare may have set the play in ancient Rome because he was living in a time reminiscent of the cruelties of that era, a time when violence and death were part of everyday life: in sports such as bear baiting and hunting, in public floggings and executions, and in the wars that divided empires. Death was always looming with threats of illness and plague.

Viewing the play as a cautionary tale for our own times, Geer sets Theatricum’s production in the not-too-distant future, making use of Jordan-Marc Diamond’s costumes and an original soundscape created by composer Marshall McDaniel to define time and place.

Sheridan Crist stars in the title role, with Marie-Françoise Theodore as Queen Tamora; Michael McFall as Tamora’s lover, Aaron; Christopher W. Jones as Saturninus; Willow Geer as Lucia; Mark Lewis as Publius; and Melora Marshall as “Marcia” (Marcus) Andronicus.

The cast also includes Kamran Abbassian, Raúl Ramón Bencomo, Clayton Cook, Turner Frankosky, Bradley Gosnell, Alexandra Hensley, Nima Jafari, Richard Johnson, Cindy Kania, Finn Kerwin, Kathleen Leary, Shane McDermott, Kelvin Morales, Precious Ra’Akbar, Alexander Sheldon, Talya Sindel, Daniel A. Stevens, Sky Wahl, Alexandre Wauthier, Michelle Wicklas and Miebaka Yohannes.

Lighting design is by Zach Moore, fight choreography is by Aaron Hendry; and the production stage manager is Pete Parkin.

TITUS ANDRONICUS
July 30 – October 1, 2016 (7:30 pm)
Theatricum Botanicum
1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga
(midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley)
Tickets: 310-455-3723 or www.theatricum.com

Review: Imagination Reigns in Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s HENRY V

Henry V - Kingsmen

Ty Mayberry (center) and the cast of Henry V

Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry V takes its cue from one of Shakespeare’s most well-known speeches, “O for a Muse of fire…,” the prologue to this play. In it, Shakespeare invites the audience to use its imagination in viewing what is about to transpire, to picture the battle scenes that will take place and the great kings who will lead their armies across the vast countryside, all represented on this humble stage.

Director Michael J. Arndt follows through with this idea of sparking imagination by taking a minimalist approach to the production design leaving a wide open stage upon which fight choreographer Jason D. Rennie stages battle scenes using the largest number of actors to date in a Kingsmen production – some 35 in all. For the Battle of Agincourt, Rennie even incorporates the use of synchronized longbows which were vital to the English conquering the French, who greatly outnumbered them on the battlefield. The effect is quite stunning.  More

Shakespearean Vaudeville Premieres at Shakespeare Orange County

SOC - Sonnets

Patrick Peterson and Allison Volk

Shakespeare Orange County has commissioned a new piece by Southern California playwright Allison Volk in honor of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Sonnets, Songs & Sorry, Will’s Been Dead 400 Years! is a rollicking “Shakespearean vaudeville” that will receive its world premiere at SOC on Sunday, July 10 at 7pm.

The 90-minute play uses modern language, as well as Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets, to explore what happens backstage when SOC company members learn that a direct descendant of William Shakespeare is coming to see their performance of Hamlet. Mistaken identities, unrequited love and plenty of humor is on tap during this crowd-pleasing comic romp.

Directed by SOC veteran Colin Martin, the show stars Nicholas Thurkettle, Sonja Inge, Patrick Peterson, Ben Horowitz and Allison Volk, plus an ensemble of acting conservatory students from the Orange County High School of Performing Arts.

Sonnets, Songs & Sorry, Will’s Been Dead 400 Years!
July 10 – August 7, 2016
Sundays at 7pm
Garden Grove Amphitheater
12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA 92840
Tickets: www.shakespeareoc.org

Review: Romeo and Juliet through the Lens of the Middle East by way of Topanga Canyon

Romeo and Juliet - Theatricum Botanicum

Judy Durkin and Shaun Taylor-Corbett. All photos by Miriam Geer

Not even a wall can keep these lovers apart.

This particular wall happens to be in modern-day East Jerusalem and as Theatricum Botanicum’s production of Romeo and Juliet commences, chaos ignites at a checkpoint that divides Israel and Palestine. It is a city that has seen struggle for thousands of years and for one Muslim boy named Romeo and one Jewish girl named Juliet, not even their innocence can change the course of this story.

Following a prologue that ominously shakes its finger at what’s to come, director Ellen Geer’s opening sequence flashes to life in a rush of sound and movement. I could feel my heart start to race as the briskly choreographed fight scene reached its pivotal high point. Geer’s production wastes no time in defining the stakes of this all too real world and the intensity of fight choreographer Aaron Hendry’s skirmishes pulse like a pressure cooker as pent-up emotions erupt again and again.

The show connects on a visceral level because the Middle East’s ongoing crisis, though half a world away, still has repercussions in our own back yard. Local actions have global consequences and, until we accept that we all bear the burden of that responsibility, peace will remain elusive and loss is inevitable. The Capulets and Montagues show us how devastating that loss can be.
More

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