Hello Everyone – My library of Shakespeare materials is overflowing so I am selling some great reference books and plays to make room for new additions. Help me find them good homes! Click the photos to see the full description and prices on craigslist, or feel free to contact me at the email address in the About section of this website, or on social media. Everything is reasonably priced for theatre budgets!
16 Oct 2016 1 Comment
11 Oct 2016 2 Comments
I love a good prequel, especially when a contemporary playwright decides to take on the back story of a hallowed play by the likes of William Shakespeare. I mean, come on. Daring to tread on that playing field takes some guts because you know before you begin that audiences are going to have high expectations of your work. They also know where you need to end your story in order for Shakespeare’s to begin so getting there must be highly inventive and worthy of its foregone conclusion.
LA-based playwright Michael Shaw Fisher proves he’s up to the task in his latest new work Skullduggery: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, a rowdy and irreverent precursor to Shakespeare’s revenge play, Hamlet. The musical comedy is a smart contrast in tone that opens up a clever pathway for foreshadowing later events and introducing the quirks of Shakespeare’s dramatic characters, like Ophelia’s (Alyssa Rupert) madness and Polonius’ (Curt Bonnem) convoluted conversation. It also allows for a slew of new characters to emerge that are completely unpredictable. You never know what this bunch of crackpots will do next.
Instead of simply the skull of a jester we meet in passing in Hamlet (“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio”) Yorick (scene-stealing Brendan Hunt) is a real person – a falling-down drunkard with more than his fair share of secrets. Hunt doesn’t even have to try to be funny. All he has to do is try to stand up and it becomes a study in how to create an unforgettable character. When his arm gets stuck in a set piece or he slips while walking across the stage, it’s a lesson in improv you can’t pass up.
Hamlet Sr. (David Haverty), appearing in Hamlet as a ghost only, is still alive, and three boisterous roustabouts (Jeff Sumner, Matt Valle and Cj Merriman) who will take up new careers as gravediggers before Skullduggery is over will reveal all the mysteries heretofore unsolved.
When this show works it works really well and a lot of that is due to the understanding they (and Hunt) have of how to bring the material to life. In truth, it’s the fusion of their acting chops and director Scott Leggett’s terrific ability to wring the funny out of Fisher’s writing that makes Skullduggery so much fun.
Each of the three has a distinct personality and role in their lively trio. They sing, they dance, they move like wraiths cloaked in black à la Martha Graham and, whenever they appear, they buoy up the merriment. Leggett’s adept staging and Natasha Norman’s cheeky choreography are a delicious combination that this show wears well.
Skullduggery takes place thirty years before Hamlet begins when brothers Claudius (John Bobek) and Hamlet are young men. Claudius and Gertrude (Leigh Wulff) have fallen in love but when Hamlet goes off to war with their father and dear old dad is killed on the battlefield, Hamlet returns and marries her while Claudius is away at school. Seven years later, Claudius comes home to Elsinore and learns the bitter truth. Yorick’s uncanny ability to predict the future eventually convinces Claudius to join him in his drunken revolution to overthrow the now King Hamlet and take back what he lost.
Where Hamlet follows the perspective of King Hamlet’s son, Skullduggery is really Claudius’ story of what led up to the murder. Bobek (as Claudius) is a likable leading man with a strong singing voice whose journey begins hesitantly, and is at times quite comical, with his hypoglycemic fainting spells a regular occurrence. As he gains confidence, his earnest demeanor propels him forward until he takes bold action to achieve his desired end. Haverty goes from battle-ready to war-weary and his few moments of vulnerability add depth to a very traditional character.
As their object of affection, Wulff looks the part of a regal queen but is acting as though she is in an entirely different play. A scene can be serious in a musical comedy but it still needs to have an intensity behind it that is consistent with the style of the play. And, whether or not an actor is miked (they are not here), it is critical that the audience hears their dialogue. In this case, we can’t hear her and the acting is so internal that it comes across as flat. Rebecca Larsen (Berta) does the same thing in her scenes although her wisecracks do land when we can hear them. Both have a bigger problem swallowing their vocals during their songs which gives them an uncomfortably thin, reedy sound, neck veins straining to reach the notes.
It’s too bad because Fisher’s score is an appealing combination of musical styles that includes everything from electro-funk, Lennon-esque tunes, and Sondheim-inspired verses to Renaissance folk, drinking songs, and sea shanties. I even heard something resembling The Pink Panther hidden in the mix. When it goes all out rock, it’s even better.
Musical director Michael Teoli uses instruments you don’t often hear together in a musical to create some cool sound paintings and eerie effects in his arrangements for the show. He features marimba, mandolin, and guitar, and even tuba on “Twenty-Three” at the top of Act II to recap the story and move the audience forward twenty-three years. Vocal harmonies, especially the intentionally dissonant phrases, are deceptively simple and add subtle texture. It’s an artful working of the score that creates a musical world just slightly off enough to catch your ear because it isn’t at all traditional.
Lyrically there are nods to popular Shakespeare phrases and a good bit of punning if you listen closely. You’d have to see the show a second time to catch all the Shakespeare in-jokes Fisher has included so keep your ear tuned.
Sacred Fools’ new Hollywood venue is a step up from their previous location for this kind of musical adventure and the creative team has done some impressive work here. DeAnne Millais’ polished scenic design features open wooden panels, a curved staircase, and some highly effective scene painting (by Joyce Hutter) to bring the Elizabethan era’s stone and bone to life. A cabinet of skulls does double duty stage left while a fabric panel hanging stage right makes tapestry changes via Ben Rock’s rich video projections to further enhance locations. Gorgeous costumes by Linda Muggeridge look expensive under Andrew Schmedake’s saturated lighting design.
Making Shakespeare a good time isn’t always easy but Skullduggery: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet accomplishes that goal and delivers an exhilarating crowd-pleaser. The laughs are infectious, the fun factor high. Maybe every Shakespearean tragedy should come with a comedy prequel.
SKULLDUGGERY: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet
September 30 – November 5, 2016
Sacred Fools Theater Company
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038
06 Oct 2016 3 Comments
The Blank Theatre opens its 26th season with a new work written and directed by founding artistic director Daniel Henning that explores one of the most controversial events in U.S. history – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare) is the result of several decades of research during which time Henning has come to be recognized as an authority on the subject. That, combined with his other great obsession – live theatre – meant it was only a matter of time before LA audiences would see a stage play based on his work.
It isn’t the first time a political leader’s life has been cut short by opposing forces. JFK’s story bears uncanny similarities to another ruler who lived more than 2,000 years ago during the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar’s death at the hands of a group of conspirators would prompt another playwright in England – William Shakespeare – to write his own story of the machinations of men, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, in 1599.
Though separated by thousands of years, the two men do seem eerily connected, with one important difference. The public knew who killed Caesar, but JFK? That’s a whole other ball of wax.
Although the Warren Commission, tasked with the JFK investigation, would find that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in gunning down the president, conspiracy theories abound. There were many who had something to gain by JFK’s death. Henning connects the dots in a way that rids the story of its misinformation and draws compelling conclusions about the events (by way of theatrical exploration) that are hard to deny.
To tell the story, he uses much of the Julius Caesar text, skillfully merging our historical characters and their Shakespearean alter egos. The cadence of the contemporary regional accents and classical verse works well together as does the straightforward tone of the piece. Henning strips away all distractions and focuses in on what is said and who is saying it. In doing so, the parallels between characters like Caesar and JFK (Ford Austin), Brutus and LBJ (Time Winters), Cassius and J. Edgar Hoover (Tony Abatemarco), or Marc Antony and Bobby Kennedy (Chad Brannon) become chillingly apparent.
Abatemarco’s Hoover is a cunning creation whose resentment of JFK is obvious from the very beginning. His Machiavellian overtures come couched within an oily persona that only becomes more disgusting with every wonderfully vile speech he bites into. We love to hate him. As Lyndon Johnson, Winters presents a meticulous portrait of a man of ambition who will not be underestimated. He is a commanding presence amid the players and uses intimidation as it suits him.
Austin captures JFK’s effortless charm in passages like the “I will not come” dialogue after Jackie (Casey McKinnon) warns him not to go forth today (the same warning Shakespeare’s Calpernia gives Caesar before he is assassinated at the Senate). McKinnon is a gentle Jackie, full of grace, with a stunning resemblance to the first lady. Brannon’s two best moments, the “Cry havoc” speech and his “I come to bury Caesar” diatribe full of thinly-veiled malice, resonate deeply.
The entire cast is equally as skilled, with additional notable performances from Susan Denaker as Lady Bird Johnson and Brett Collier as Martin Luther King, Jr.
The timeline of the play covers the events leading up to the assassination and the fallout that follows it, reaching its climax during a powerful scene recreating Dr. King’s march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. A lyric revision turns the civil rights anthem “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” into an emotional high point creating a kind of false ending before the play moves on to LBJ’s presidency, his decision not to run for re-election in 1968, and the events at the Ambassador Hotel that same year when Bobby Kennedy would be shot.
An uncomplicated technical design benefits the production by keeping the audience’s attention riveted on the characters. Historical footage projected on the set is the lone obvious enhancement that introduces theatricality to the overall effect. It’s beautifully done.
The Tragedy of JFK presents a compelling explanation for one of the most horrific events in U.S. history and Henning’s production contains some of the finest work you’ll see on a stage in LA. This is an exceptional cast telling an extraordinary story and one of the best nights of theatre you’ll see in 2016.
THE TRAGEDY OF JFK (As Told By Wm. Shakespeare)
October 1 – November 6, 2016
The Blank Theatre at The Skylight Theatre
1816½ N. Vermont
Los Angeles, CA 90027
05 Oct 2016 1 Comment
Lovers & Madmen Productions present
Romeo & Juliet
October 8 – 23, 2016
Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm
Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena
Admission is “pay what you can”
For more information go to www.loversandmadmen.com.
04 Oct 2016 1 Comment
Here’s one to arouse your primal instincts. Butoh-inspired choreography and gruesome stage combat will be the hallmarks of The Vagrancy’s upcoming production of Macbeth directed by artistic director Caitlin Hart. The production takes place in a post-apocalyptic Scotland and promises to be an unnerving and eerie fusion of classic and modern futility.
Hart will tell the story of Macbeth’s path of tyranny, murder and madness in an aggressive cut (show runs 100 minutes) which finds the temporary king haunted by the prophecies of three nightmarish witches and bolstered by his ambitious wife.
The cast stars Daniel Kaemon as Macbeth and Alana Dietze as Lady Macbeth, with Arthur Keng (Banquo), Joseph Valdez (Macduff), Elitia Daniels (Lady Macduff), My-Ishia Cason-Brown (Ross), Brandon Ruiter (Malcolm), Kamar Elliot (Lennox), Marissa Brennan (First Witch/Hecate), Kelly Perez (Second Witch), Carolyn Deskin (Third Witch), Ann Colby-Stocking (Queen Duncan/First Apparition), Steve Madar (Porter/Doctor), Austin Iredale (Siward/First Murderer), Blaine Nicholls (Captain), Andrew Walke (Angus), Ciera Jo Thompson (Donalbain/ Caithness), Rebecca Everhart (Witch/Messenger), Maia Kazin (Witch/ Gentlewoman), Meredith Brown (Witch/Nurse), Aliyah Conley and Mia Moore doubling as Macduff’s Child, and Andrew Grigorian (Fleance).
Dance choreography is by Holly Rothschild and fight choreography is by Jason Vaughn. The creative team also includes Tristan Jeffers (set design), Kaitlyn Kaufman (costume design), Matt Richter (lighting & sound design), Gabriela Zarate (props design), Steve Madar (technical director), Amanda A. Padró (dramaturg), Kathryn Read Fisher (associate producing director), Karina Faulstich (assistant director), Miranda Stewart and Jamie Hannah Drutman (co-producers), Kelly Egan (stage manager) and Karina Wolfe (public relations).
The Vagrancy is an LA-based theatre company that creates visceral work in order to touch the human spirit.
October 28 – November 20, 2016
The Vagrancy at
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
1238 West 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Friday/Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm
Running time: 100 minutes
For more about the company go to www.thevagrancy.com.
03 Oct 2016 1 Comment
From the press release: “Two star-crossed lovers wed in secrecy. But what should be the happy ending of their tale is instead the beginning of a journey filled with adventure and betrayal, where the separation between allies and enemies blurs beyond recognition. When the people you love the most are the same people trying to destroy you, how do you survive? Can we forgive each other when the cut is still bleeding?
The capacity for both great kindness and great cruelty in all of us is at the heart of Shakespeare’s late classic, Cymbeline. Imogen, princess of Britain, is forced into solitude upon the banishment of her husband, the orphan-born but royally raised Posthumus. The punishment is handed down by her father, King Cymbeline, at the behest of his conniving and manipulative new queen, who plans to wed her oafish and dangerous son Cloten to Imogen now that Posthumus is gone.
Separated from Posthumus for the first time in her young life, Imogen grows bolder with each new obstacle thrown her way. But Posthumus, alienated in a foreign country, enters into an ill-conceived bet with the devious Iachimo. That wager sets a series of lies and betrayals into motion, forcing Imogen to embark on a hero’s journey leading her to everything from finding long-lost siblings to embroiling her in a looming war between Britain and Rome. Dramatic and darkly comic throughout, Cymbeline is both intensely personal and daringly epic.”
This intimate production of Cymbeline is directed by Frank Weidner and stars Christine Avila, Olivia Buntaine, William Dennis Hunt, Jordan Klomp, Kathleen Leary, Celia Mandela, Victoria Martinez, Gerard Marzilli, Dane Oliver, Daniel Ramirez, and Michelle Wicklas, and produced by Bo Powell and Jordan Klomp.
November 4 – 20, 2016
11006 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
$20 General Admission
02 Oct 2016 1 Comment
Hamlet tells us, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” It’s all in the perception of a thing, especially today in the age of Snapchat and Instagram where the camera puts our lives on display (or the version we choose to share). Looking to the artistic and social troublemakers of our time, the production sees Hamlet wield the camera as both exploratory tool and brutal weapon. Urban and tech-savvy, this Prince of Denmark confronts his perceptions with Shakespeare’s text and the image-wizardry of a modern street artist.
Inner Circle Theatre and director Matthew G. Hill will fuse together Hill’s years as a film and theatre artist with his work as an illustrator to form a hybrid production that places the Bard’s great revenge play at the vanguard. Hill is an artist-in-residency at the National Theatre of Croatia, the Getty Villa, and the Annenberg Beach House and is currently the associate artistic director of the Rogue Artists Ensemble.
October 7 – November 6, 2016
Inner Circle Theatre
North Hollywood, CA
Specific location disclosed upon ticket purchase
26 Sep 2016 1 Comment
How do you follow up a summer season of Free Shakespeare in Griffith Park for audiences that number in the hundreds each night? By going intimate, which is exactly what Independent Shakespeare Co. is doing this fall. On Saturday, October 15, the company will open A Midsummer Night’s Dream in its Independent Studio in Atwater Village, directed by ISC’s Managing Director, David Melville.
In Midsummer, the lines between dreaming and waking are deliciously blurred. As the King and Queen of fairies do battle in a fantastical forest, they find their world interrupted by mortals: four young lovers on the run and a group of amateur actors preparing for the biggest performance of their lives. As the humans submit to the magic of the woods, they find themselves in the longest, wildest, most transformative night of their lives.
Director David Melville says, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is actually one of Shakespeare’s most sophisticated plays. In it, Shakespeare creates a world that is as confounding as it is magical. Its intricately plotted, intersecting storylines evoke a complex world full of unseen forces. Our production, in which nine actors switch almost acrobatically from role to role, is as fun and lively as the audience expects, but also explores the darker and more elemental underpinnings and energy of the play. The action of the play is over the course of one wild, mysterious night, and our production reflects that—it’s like being at a really great, weird party full of eccentrics.”
The cast will feature Jose Acain, Sam Breen, April Fritz, Martha Gehman, Faqir Hassan, Tatiana Louder, Evan Lewis Smith, Erwin Tuazon and Kalean Ung. Lighting Design is by Bosco Flanagan. Costume Design is by Lauren Opplet. Composer and Sound Design by David Melville.
A Gala Opening Benefit Performance and Party will take place Saturday, October 22. A benefit performance to support ISC’s ‘Theater For All’ initiative, providing access to performances all year long. This season, 20% of the ISC Studio tickets are offered free to underserved youth, families on a limited income, and other members of our community that typically do not have access to the performing arts; through partnerships with a select group of Los Angeles school and community organizations, like P.S. ARTS. There are also a limited number of free tickets available to anyone who needs them. Tickets for the benefit are $100.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
October 15 – November 20, 2016 (opening night 10/21)
Independent Studio, 3191 Casitas Avenue #168
(between Fletcher Drive and Glendale Blvd.)
Atwater Crossing Arts + Innovation Complex
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Tickets: (818) 710-6306 or www.iscla.org
Generous Admission – $35. Support ISC’s initiative to provide access across income and age.
General Admission – $20. ISC’s affordable ticket price.
FREE. A limited number of free tickets are available for each performance so that price is not an obstacle to attending live theater. Email ISC at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 818-710-6306 to make a reservation.
14 Sep 2016 1 Comment
Plácido Domingo stars in the title role of Verdi’s Macbeth, opening September 17 downtown at the Music Center, with Ekaterina Semenchuk joining him as Lady Macbeth. The brand new LA Opera production is directed by Darko Tresnjak, Tony Award-winning director of A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love & Murder, who previously directed The Ghosts of Versailles for LA Opera in 2015. Macbeth is conducted by LA Opera’s Music Director, James Conlon.
Of the opera, Conlon says: “Compared to Otello and Falstaff—Verdi’s late-career masterpieces, similarly drawn from Shakespeare—his Macbeth seems less consequential. But that is only because we judge it by the measure of a standard set by the composer himself. Viewed in comparison with the composer’s contemporaries, and with many of his owns works of the period, it looms large. Had Verdi died or ceased to compose after Macbeth, it would stand today as a towering work of the Italian repertoire.”
He goes on to explain. “[There is] one major innovation that exemplifies the radical nature of his vision: Macbeth is a loveless opera, ‘un opera senza amore.’ George Bernard Shaw’s adage that ‘Italian Romantic operas are about a tenor and a soprano who want to make love, and a baritone who won’t let them’ is utterly unseated. No compromise was to be made to the expectations of the public to provide a stereotypic cast of characters in each vocal category. There is, in fact, no antagonist. The only desire expressed in this opera is the desire for power. There is no battle of equals, only an inner conflict with arrogance and insatiable ambition, and the corrupting lust for power. It has also been observed that Verdi’s opera is a tragedy for the royal couple, but a comedy for the witches.”
Click here for more behind-the-scenes photos of LA Opera’s new production.
LA Opera: MACBETH
September 17 – October 16, 2016
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
135 North Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tickets and info: www.laopera.org
12 Sep 2016 1 Comment
The UCLA Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies is holding a conference October 7 – 8, 2016 that you may find interesting. Entertaining the Idea: Shakespeare, Philosophy, Performance – Conference 1: Key Words. Organizers: Julia Reinhard Lupton (UC, Irvine), Lowell Gallagher (UCLA), James Kearney (UCSB).
To entertain is to delight and amuse but also to receive guests and hence to court risk, from the real dangers of rape, murder, or jealousy to the more intangible exhilaration of self-disclosure and captivation in response to another. To entertain an idea is to welcome a compelling thought or beckoning fiction into the disinhibited zone of speculative play.
“I’ll entertain the offer’d fallacy,” says Antipholus of Syracuse as he abandons himself to the comedy of errors. Like Antipholus, readers of fictions and viewers of plays entertain “themes” and “dreams” on their way to recognition and new knowledge as a mode of testing the significance and reach of the thought-things and person-problems, encountered in a world co-created by their imaginative participation.
Entertaining the Idea: Shakespeare, Philosophy, Performance will stage a series of encounters between performance and philosophy in Shakespearean drama, encounters designed both to illumine the plays in their poetic and theatrical amplitude and to explore what philosophy and performance might offer each other in 21st-century literary studies.
The aim is to take up drama’s capacity to enhance experience, extend attention, exercise judgment, test existential limits, and assert common bonds. Key words in this enterprise include entertainment, acting, acknowledgement, hospitality, and ways of life, concepts explored in the opening conference.
Some of the speakers and topics explored during the two-day conference include:
Sarah Beckwith, Duke University
Late Have I Loved You
Lowell Gallagher, UCLA, and Bruce Smith, USC
Roundtable: Philosophy and/or/as Entertainment in The Winter’s Tale
Sheiba Kian Kaufman, Ahmanson-Getty Fellow
Acting in a Hospitable Temporality: Paradigms of Capacity-Building and Transformation
James Kearney, UC, Santa Barbara
Jeffrey Knapp, UC, Berkeley
James Kuzner, Brown University
Shakespeare as a Way of Life
Phil Thompson, UC, Irvine
Speaking Shakespeare: A Workshop
Tzachi Zamir, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The conference will also host a roundtable with Ahmanson-Getty Fellows and graduate students from UC campuses who will share their research plans and projects in response to the key words explored.
Entertaining the Idea: Shakespeare, Philosophy, Performance
Friday, October 7, 2016 (10am – 5pm)
Saturday, October 8, 2016 (10am – 1pm)
Royce Hall, Room 314 on the UCLA campus
10745 Dickson Plaza
More info and registration
Admission is Free for all students (with ID), Center & Clark Affiliated Faculty, and UC faculty and staff; and $20 for the General Public.
UCLA Campus Parking Information
The conference is co-sponsored by the UCLA Office of Interdisciplinary & Cross Campus Affairs; UCLA Department of English; UCI Shakespeare Center
UCLA’s conference core program events will continue in 2017 with two additional events.
Cut Him Out in Little Stars: Romeo and Juliet in Diaspora
January 20 & 21, 2017
First Philosophy, Last Judgments: The Lear Real
April 28 & 29, 2017