Happy New Year and welcome back Shakespeare lovers! 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616) and that means it’s another big year ahead honoring one of the greatest writers of all time. Here’s a look at what’s coming so get out your calendars and make note.
Antaeus Theatre Company starts the year with its popular ClassicsFest reading series featuring four plays in January and February. Among them are Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s Tony Award-winning absurdist play, initiated by Bo Foxworth and Adrian LaTourelle, directed by John Henry Davis (Jan. 17 & 18), and Shakespeare’s classic The Winter’s Tale, initiated and directed by Elizabeth Swain (Jan. 31 & Feb. 1). These member-driven developmental readings are often the first step in the company’s progression to a fully-staged production and are a great way to become immersed in the plays. www.antaeus.org
For Valentine’s Day, A Noise Within will present Romeo & Juliet directed by Dámaso Rodríguez. Rodriguez is currently artistic director at Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland but is well-known in LA. from his time spent as associate artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse and co-artistic director of Furious Theatre Company. In his streamlined interpretation of the story, he says, “the design and concept will evoke a street performance in an economically and socially repressed, centuries-old city.” It will remain focused on the play’s primary relationships and feature a diverse cast, original music by Martin Carrillo, and minimal props and costumes. A pre-show discussion will take place Feb. 17 prior to the performance at 6pm. Post-show conversations with the cast will follow the 8pm performances on March 18, April 8 & 29, and May 8 (2pm). www.anoisewithin.org
The Ensemble Shakespeare Theater has been developing an original work based on the fascinating character of Queen Margaret who appears in Henry VI Parts 1-3 and Richard III. Shakespeare’s Rose Queen is told from Margaret’s point of view and runs Feb. 20 – March 3 at Lineage Performing Arts Center in Pasadena. Starring Megan Rippey as Margaret, Rose Queen’s gritty story will feature battles choreographed as movement pieces by Lineage Dance Company’s artistic director, Hilary Thomas, and other new elements of storytelling in an intimate theater setting. The cast also includes Brian White as Suffolk/Edward, Natalie Fryman as Eleanor/Richard III, Jay Blair as Henry VI, Sonny Calvano as Warwick, and other to be announced. Shakespeare’s Rose Queen follows previous original works by the company – Shakespeare’s Lovers and its international hit, Shakespeare’s Villains. www.californiashakespeare.org
2016 is a big year for one of L.A.’s favorite intimate Shakespeare companies. The Porters of Hellsgate celebrates its 10-year anniversary with the Year of the King, a season devoted to Henry V and his legacy as told in Shakespeare’s plays. First up is a daring production of the Henry VI trilogy which condenses the first two parts into a single, full-length play, and presents it in rep with Henry VI Part 3. The production will open in the spring at the Whitmore Lindley Theatre Center in North Hollywood. Additional events include a spring fundraiser on March 12, staged readings, and a fall production to be announced at a later date. You’ll find updates throughout the year at www.portersofhellsgate.com.
Independent Shakespeare Co. opens its year with a studio production of Othello starring Evan Smith in the title role and Kalean Ung as Desdemona. Artistic director Melissa Chalsma directs what the company is describing as a “tightly-wound adaptation” with a cast of seven actors, set in a contemporary world. The cast will also include David Melville as Iago, Sean Pritchett as Cassio, Fiona Cheung as Emilia, and Danny Brown as Bianca. Performances run March 19 – May 7 in the company’s Atwater Village location. As an extension of the company’s commitment to providing free theatre each summer in Griffith Park, ISC will also be offering 10 free tickets available for each studio performance of Othello. They’ll go fast so don’t wait. www.iscla.org
And speaking of the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival, this year it’s The Tempest and Richard III that Angelenos will see outdoors under the stars. The Tempest will be directed by internationally recognized director Matthew Earnest whose physical and inventive style promises a bold, visually rich production. Melissa Chalsma directs Richard III starring David Melville as the villainous king. This production will borrow from an 18th-century adaptation of the play by Colley Cibber that re-imagines it, de-emphasizing its historical aspects and focusing on the domestic tragedy within. It will also feature original music with the re-imagined text, in much the same way that last summer’s Romeo & Juliet featured a live rock band. www.iscla.org
Barry Creyton directs James Marsters and Emily Bergl in the L.A. Theatre Works’ production of As You Like It, April 14 & 15. Marsters will take on the dual roles of Duke Senior and Duke Frederick with Bergl playing Rosalind, one of Shakespeare’s most coveted female characters. Like all of LATW’s performances, this radio play version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy will be performed without sets or costumes at UCLA and recorded live for broadcast on public radio nationwide at a later date. www.latw.org
The Hollywood Fringe Festival’s favorite rapscallion, Michael Shaw Fisher has a new project afoot. Skullduggery: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, written by Fisher and directed by Scott Leggett, will have its world premiere as part of Sacred Fools Theatre Company’s first season in its new Hollywood home. The musical comedy is based on the love triangle between Claudius, Gertrude and Hamlet Sr, says co-artistic director Bryan Bellomo. “Skullduggery is madcap musical at its finest, a delight for ardent fans of Hamlet and those unfamiliar with the great tragedy. You’ll never think of a rotting Denmark the same way again.” As if that’s not enough, musical direction and arrangements are by the always impressive Michael Teoli. www.sacredfools.org (rescheduled to Sept 2016)
The early news from Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is that their summer season will open on June 4 with Romeo and Juliet set in East Jerusalem. Thearicum’s signature production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will also return, along with the rest of the season to be announced shortly. Early intel is that a tragedy may be on tap but we won’t know yet for a few weeks. www.theatricum.com
Shakespeare Orange County’s third season under artistic director John Walcutt finds the company expanding its summer offerings to include even more events and performances than ever. The summer season opens in the Garden Grove Amphitheatre with Hamlet starring David Denman in the title role and Walcutt returning to the stage as King Claudius. Also playing Sundays beginning July 10 is an original Shakespearean Vaudeville show in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Sonnets, Songs and Sorry Will’s Been Dead 400 Years! will entertain audience through August 7. Prior to the start of the season, SOC will present a special production of Julius Caesar in partnership with the Orange County School of the Arts, May 20 – 21. For a complete list of events, go to shakespeareoc.org.
Also in Orange County, the brand new state-of-the-art Musco Center for the Arts at Chapman University begins its inaugural season. On the spring schedule is a production of The Merchant of Venice directed by former SOC artistic director, Thomas Bradac and starring Michael Nehring as Shylock. Performances are April 15, 16 & 23. muscocenter.org
Stay tuned for more. Great to be back!