Star-studded Cast to present As You Like It for Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles


The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA), under the artistic direction of Ben Donenberg, returns after 16 years to The Japanese Garden on the grounds of the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center Campus with Shakespeare’s romantic comedy As You Like It, directed by Royal Shakespeare Company artist Kenn Sabberton, July 10 – 29. As You Like It is presented by SCLA in conjunction with VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

The cast is led by Tessa Thompson as Rosalind; she is known for roles on Veronica Mars, Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes and upcoming BBC America Copper, as well as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Cordelia in King Lear here in Los Angeles. Peter Cambor, who played Nate Getz on NCIS: Los Angeles plays Orlando; Michael Dorn, well known as the Klingon Lt. Commander Worf from Star Trek, plays both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior; Diane Venora, who played Hamlet for the New York Shakespeare Festival, as Jacques; John Lavelle, who played Ben in The Graduate on Broadway, as Touchstone; and veteran Los Angeles stage actor Tony Abatemarco as Adam and Corin. The cast also features Jantzen Baldeck, McKinley Belcher, Shann Dornhecker, Brian Joseph, Amy Judd Lieberman, Gabriella Rhodeen, Andrew Schwartz, and Lindsay Rae Taylor. 

Ben Donenberg, Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Center says, “We are returning to the VA grounds to present Shakespeare – this time at the Japanese Garden, one of the loveliest outdoor venues on the West Side. Here we have a chance to enjoy one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, with a great company of wonderful Los Angeles Shakespearean actors, led by a 10-year veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, complete with live music – an important part of our productions – on a lovely mid-summer evening, with al fresco dining. Additionally this allows us to continue working with Veterans, who will serve as valued members of our backstage and front of house team. Two veterans will also be part of the performing company, and we are making complimentary tickets available to active military personnel and veterans.”

The production features original music by Brian Joseph, who wrote original music for the Shakespeare Center’s 2010 production of Much Ado About Nothing, featuring Lyle Lovett and Helen Hunt. The scenery is by Gary Wissmann, costumes by Holly Poe Durbin, and the lighting by Trevor Norton.

Director Kenn Sabberton has set the play in present day Los Angeles, where Shakespeare’s court is likened to the corridors of governmental and corporate power and financial influence, and where the events of the day have brought about a sorry and sour state of affairs, stemming from family strife and political maneuverings among the characters.

Since this is Shakespeare, after all, the characters repair to the forest. The Forest of Arden has become the local rural orange groves, adjacent farmland, and Angeles Crest Forest campgrounds where the characters gather to sing, dance, fall in love, and discuss what is truly important for their own health and the health of mankind – as many Angelinos who regularly enjoy the natural settings that are easily accessible to all who live here.

Kenn Sabberton, who directed the 2009 outdoor production of As You Like It on the plaza of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, has been an actor, director and teacher for over thirty years. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for ten years, working in London, Stratford-Upon-Avon and New York. While there, Sabberton was heavily involved with the education department’s school programming, and directed shows for the RSC fringe for which he served as Artistic Director.

Most recently, he directed shows in London, which have toured around the United States and played off Broadway. Currently, Sabberton is touring in a production of Bill Naughton’s Alfie, directed by Oliver Award winning director David Thacker.

Ben Donenberg has performed as an actor on and off Broadway, in Central Park at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Delacorte Theater, on television and in film. He annually directs Simply Shakespeare, a star-studded staged reading, hosted by Board Member Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, which benefits The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles.

In 2006, the United States Senate unanimously approved his Presidential appointment to a six-year term as a Member of the National Council on the Arts, overseeing the work of the National Endowment for the Arts. Donenberg is also featured in the National Endowments’ award-winning inspirational documentary “Why Shakespeare?” which was distributed to more than 40,000 high schools throughout the country.

As You Like It runs July 10 – 29 (with a press opening on July 14), Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 8 pm. Gates Open at 6:30 for pre-show picnics. The Japanese Garden on the grounds of the West Los Angeles VA is located at 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90073 (adjacent to the Brentwood Theatre). For tickets call 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.shakespearecenter.org. For information about the ticket program for active military and veterans, please call SCLA at 213-481-2273.

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