LA Opera Mounts a New MACBETH Starring Plácido Domingo

Macbeth - LA Opera

Placido Domingo as Macbeth with Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth and Roberto Tagliavini as Banquo. Photo by Karen Almond

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.”

LA Opera - Macbeth

Fight director Steve Rankin in rehearsal choreographing a pack of sword-wielding witch-dancers. Photo by Karen Almond

LA Opera - Macbeth

A video crew will shoot one of the king’s heads and the green color of the backdrop, and on dancer Jean Michelle Sayeg’s legs, will be ‘dropped out’ digitally to create a supernatural floating head effect. Photo by Larry Ho

LA Opera - Macbeth

Singers rehearse with James Conlon before moving to the stage for dress and tech rehearsals. Photo by Larry Ho

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

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UCLA Conference: Entertaining the Idea: Shakespeare, Philosophy, Performance – Key Words

UCLA Conference

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).

Course Description
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
Hospitality

Jeffrey Knapp, UC, Berkeley
Entertainment

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
Acting

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

Michael Shaw Fisher’s Skullduggery to open Sacred Fools’ 2016-17 Season

Skullduggery

Shakespeare’s words, “To thine own self be true” could easily be the tag line to Sacred Fools Theater Company’s upcoming 20th anniversary season. This bunch of fools will embark on a journey to do what they do best in 2016-17 and, according to co-artistic director Alicia Conway Rock, “reflect upon and celebrate what we call ‘Foolish’ — a spirit of irreverence and ingenuity underscored with energy and optimism that has been with us since the founding days of our company.”

To kick off that worthy endeavor is Skullduggery: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, a collaboration between the Fools and writer/composer, Michael Shaw Fisher. Those familiar with Fisher’s previous works like Shakespeare’s Last Night Out, Exorcistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment, The Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd. and other Hollywood Fringe Festival hits know the kind of wit and invention he brings to the table.

If you’ve ever wondered what might have happened between Hamlet Sr., Gertrude, and Claudius, Fisher’s angle will unpack the story of their love triangle, song by song, in an unlikely journey from innocent youth to the “most foul” murder in the canon.

As for the music in this twisted tale, musical director Michael Teoli describes it as a rock musical “but it’s less hard-hitting rock and more eclectic. Think Tom Waits meets Stephen Sondheim meets David Lynch.” Teoli is also doing the arrangements for the show and says the instrumentation includes marimba, two guitars, Teoli on bass, and percussion (like cahone and bongos). It sounds pretty fabulous and, dare I say, even a bit spooky.

The show stars John Bobek as Claudius, David Haverty as Hamlet, Sr., and Leigh Wulff as Gertrude. Scott Leggett, whose performance as Fatty Arbuckle in Sacred Fools’ Stoneface was one for the book, directs. You’ve also seen his directorial work in Neverwhere; Beaverquest! The Musical; and Forbidden Zone: Live in the 6th Dimension, so be prepared.

Artwork for the season, including the Skullduggery image above, is by fine art painter Gabe Leonard, another long-time friend of the company. For a complete look at Sacred Fools’ upcoming season, go to www.sacredfools.org.

SKULLDUGGERY: THE MUSICAL PREQUEL TO HAMLET
September 23 – November 5, 2016 (Opening night 9/30)
Sacred Fools Theater Company
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Fri-Sat at 8pm. Sundays at 3pm beginning Oct. 16
Tickets and More Info: www.sacredfools.org

Casts Announced for world premieres of Skullduggery and The Tragedy of JFK

SkullduggeryBuckle up Shakespeare lovers – two new fall productions have announced the casts of their unique Shakespeare-inspired works, both opening the weekend of September 30. The first is Michael Shaw Fisher’s Skullduggery: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, which begins previews at Sacred Fools Theatre Company Sept 23 and opens Friday, Sept 30. The world premiere musical comedy features book, music & lyrics by Fisher, arrangements & additional music by Michael Teoli, and is directed by Scott Leggett.

Told by the gravediggers, the story follows the love triangle of Claudius, Gertrude and Hamlet Sr. in song, until their journey ultimately leads to the climactic moment of Hamlet Sr.’s “most foul” murder. In his own singular style, Fisher connects the missing pieces of the story and answers questions like: What really happened to Yorick? And, what happened to Ophelia and Laertes’ mother? Before the tale is ended, ghosts, battles, and the bones of Shakespeare’s masterpiece will be uncovered and exposed to the light of day, with surprising insight.

Cast includes John Bobek as Claudius, Leigh Wulff as Gertrude, David Haverty as Hamlet Sr., Brendan Hunt as Yorick, Jeff Sumner as Delver, Matt Valle as Puddles, Cj Merriman as Dull, Rebecca Larsen as Berta, Curt Bonnem as Polonius, Alyssa Rupert as Ophelia, and Pat Towne as Osric/Ghost King. Tickets are available now at www.sacredfools.org.

Blank Theatre - Tragedy of JFKThe second world premiere is The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare), conceived, adapted, and directed by The Blank Theatre’s founding artistic director, Daniel Henning. Performances also begin Sept 24 with opening night set for Saturday, October 1 at the Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz.

In this new play, Henning, who is a recognized expert on the JFK assassination, takes on the conspiracy to assassinate the 35th President of the United States using Shakespearian text. The result is a theatrical tale unlike anything you’ve seen before concerning the possible events surrounding one of the most shocking deaths in American history.

Henning’s cast includes Ford Austin as JFK, Chad Brannon (Robert F. Kennedy), Tony Abatemarco, Brian Brennan, Brett Collier, Cris D’Annunzio, Jerry Della Salla, Susan Denaker, John Knight, Jonathon Lamer, Kelie McIver, Casey McKinnon (Jackie Kennedy), Bruce Nehlsen, Jacob Sidney (McGeorge Bundy), Jonny Walker, and Time Winters as Lyndon B. Johnson. Tickets are available now at www.TheBlank.com.

One comedy, one tragedy – all your Shakespeare bases covered. Mark thy calendar now!

Review: Chickspeare Moves, Audience Laughs, Comedy Wins

Chickspeare

Silvie Zamora (left) and Kelly Holden (right). All photos by Blake Gardner

The ladies of Chickspeare are back for another summer of Elizabethan improv, this year indoors in their new home at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. It’s been two years since I saw them perform on their lovely outdoor patio in Hollywood and I wondered how the experience would compare. I’m happy to report, these Bard broads get funnier every time I see them and the new venue works like a charm.

They are as adept at reinventing Shakespeare’s conventions as ever but it doesn’t matter if you know anything about Shakespeare’s plays. Their ability to hook you with all manner of silliness is assured and you’ll never feel like you aren’t in on the joke. Maybe it’s because they don’t take themselves too seriously either. This is your Friday night destination for good-natured, likeable fun, and who couldn’t use a little more of that?

In less than 90 minutes, five of the seven current cast members (Jennifer Bascom, Gale Brennan, Jennifer Flack, Kelly Holden, Lauren Pritchard, Paige Tierney, and Silvie Zamora) will tell a love story that has never been seen before. Part prose, part verse, and accompanied by an expert fiddler (Rebecca Ward), the stage is set and off they go.

Secret lovers, obstinate parents, the ghost of a dancing dead wife, a baker, a blind mother crone, a pirate bum in an alley, rats, bats, and one dough-drunk fool later, this opening night road to Padua offered up more belly laughs than I could have predicted.

Chickspeare

Lauren Pritchard (left) and Gale Brennan (right)

Sprinkled in among the comedy you’ll find just enough drama to ground the levity. A heartfelt soliloquy to love by one of the fools was surprisingly perceptive, and a father and son duel à la Hamlet ended in a delicious turnabout.

If their creativity and quick thinking isn’t enough to make the evening a rousing success, it’s almost as much fun seeing what happens when they get into a snag and have to dig themselves out. Watching an actor process her thoughts in real time is hilarious when you know she has to make a hard left to head off a dead end. As an audience member, that’s the joy of living in the moment and reveling when said actor pulls it out, which she always does, usually to thunderous applause.

No matter which way the story advances, it’s sure to end in merrymaking and, on this night, a wedding, in true Shakespearean fashion. Best of all, every performance will be a new story so you can go as often as you like and never see the same show twice. Yes, these chicks rule. Let the comedy games begin!

Ellen Dostal
Shakespeare in LA

CHICKSPEARE
August 5 – September 16, 2016
ComedySportz @ the El Portal Theatre
5269 Lankershim Blvd (just north of Magnolia)
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Friday nights at 8pm except for 8/26 at 10pm
Tickets: www.cszla.com
More info: www.chickspeareimprov.com

Chickspeare 2016

Holly Gray (left) and Jennifer Flack (right)

Chickspeare 2016

Chickspeare company

First Look: Independent Shakespeare Co.’s THE TEMPEST

The Tempest, now through September 4th, part of Independent Shakespeare Co.’s Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival. Performances run Wed-Sun at 7pm. For more information, visit www.iscla.org or call 818-710-6306.

THE TEMPEST - ISC

Thom Rivera as Prospero (left), Kalean Ung as Ariel (center) and Patrick Batiste & Nathan Nonhof as Spirits. Photos by Grettel Cortes

THE TEMPEST - ISC

Evan Lewis Smith as Ferdinand and Erika Soto as Miranda

THE TEMPEST - ISC

Lorenzo González as Trinculo, Sean Pritchett as Caliban and David Melville as Stephano

THE TEMPEST - ISC

Thom Rivera as Prospero and Erika Soto as Miranda

THE TEMPEST - ISC

Lorenzo González as Trinculo and David Melville as Stephano

Romeo & Juliet: Pokéman Go! with The Actors’ Gang

Romeo and Juliet Pokeman Go

The Actors’ Gang invites you to its 10th Annual Free Shakespeare-in-the-Park for families, Saturdays and Sundays at 11:00 am. Bring your picnic, bring the kids, and come on down to Media Park in Culver City for a great time with Romeo & Juliet: Pokémon Go! Parking is free for the first hour in the Ince Lot (above Trader Joe’s) and $1/30 minutes thereafter. www.theactorsgang.com

The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare)… What?!

Blank Theatre - Tragedy of JFK

Now here’s an original. The Blank Theatre is producing the world premiere of The Tragedy of JKF (as told by Wm. Shakespeare) beginning September 24 at the Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz. You heard that right. I can’t wait.

The production is conceived, adapted, and directed by The Blank’s founding artistic director Daniel Henning, who, I’m sorry to say, I did not know was a recognized expert on the JFK assassination. He has lectured at colleges and spent countless hours on talk radio at stations such as KABC, WABC, KFI, KPFK, WMAL, and others discussing the subject.

The Tragedy of JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare) is the story of the conspiracy to assassinate the 35th President of the United States and its aftermath using Shakespearian text to imagine what might have happened surrounding one of the most shocking events in American history. Fall theatre in L.A. has just gotten interesting.

THE TRAGEDY OF JFK (as told by Wm. Shakespeare)
September 24 – November 6, 2016 (Opening night is October 1 at 8pm)
The Blank Theatre at Skylight Theatre
1816 1/2 N. Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tickets: (323) 661-9827 or www.TheBlank.com
Performance schedule: Friday at 8:30pm, Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are available now.

The Porters Present Year of the King Staged Readings

The Porters of Hellsgate are continuing their “Year of the King” 10th anniversary season with a series of staged readings highlighting three of Shakespeare’s kings at the Whitmore Theatre in North Hollywood. Each play is directed by and stars a company member who has played the role previously.

Last weekend, the series kicked off with Associate Artistic Director Thomas Bigley directing Richard II. This Saturday, August 6, Artistic Director Charles Pasternak returns to Los Angeles to direct Henry V, and on August 13, Associate Artistic Director Gus Krieger concludes the series directing Richard III.

Tickets are “pay what you can” and there will be a reception in the theater following each reading. Seating is limited so reserve now.

Year of the King - The PortersHENRY V
August 6, 2016
Ticket Link

RICHARD III
August 13, 2016
Ticket Link

The Porters of Hellsgate @
The Whitmore Theatre
11006 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91602
www.portersofhellsgate.com

The Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942 sets the stage for SCLA’s Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night - SCLA

Fred Sanders (Feste), Stephen Caffrey (Sir Toby Belch), and Chris Rivera (Sir Andrew Aguecheek). Photo credit: Michael Lamont

For the last 30 years The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has been captivating audiences with its award-winning performances. Now, SCLA’s professional company returns with a new production of Twelfth Night, beginning July 29, hosted at Santa Monica College.

Twelfth Night is directed by former Royal Shakespeare Company member, Kenn Sabberton, and takes its inspiration from the real life events of the “Great Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942” and alien-invasion hysteria. It also features original music by composer and cast member Fred Sanders who plays Feste.

In 1942, bright lights in the skies of L.A. could only mean one of two things: a Pearl Harbor-style attack by Japan or an alien invasion. The Great Los Angeles Air Raid, as it has become known, provides the perfect SoCal backdrop for this gender-bending comedy, which tracks the misadventures of shipwrecked twins Viola and Sebastian. A delightful play full of unrequited love, mistaken identity, love triangles, and lies, it contains some of Shakespeare’s wittiest wordplay.

The cast stars Therese Barbato (Viola), Chris Butler (Orsino), Tracey A. Leigh (Olivia), Kimberly Scott (Maria), Stephen Caffrey (Sir Toby Belch), Time Winters (Malvolio), Connor Kelly-Eiding (Sebastian), Fred Sanders (Feste), Christopher Rivera (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Sheldon Donenberg (Antionio), and Dustin Staff (Valentine).

Production team also includes Ben Donenberg (SCLA Artistic Director), and SMC designers Lacey Anzelc (scenic design), Leigh Allen (lighting design), Kristie Mattsson (costume design), and Kirk Graves (prop master).

Director Kenn Sabberton has been an actor, director and teacher for over thirty years. Prior to training he was the youngest ever Artistic Director of the Enfield Youth Theatre and was invited to work with the renowned National Youth Theatre. He trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and received a B.A. in Theatre Studies. After many years working in London, Kenn was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. He later worked with London’s Royal National Theatre, the Aquila Theatre Company, and as an associate artist teacher with NYU Center for Ancient Studies, studying, lecturing and researching Shakespeare. Twelfth Night is Kenn’s fourth production with SCLA. Previous shows include As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet).

TWELFTH NIGHT
July 29 – August 21, 2016
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles and Santa Monica College
Santa Monica College Main Stage on the Quad
1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405
Wed – Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2pm
Tickets: 213-481-2273 or www.shakespearecenter.org
$40 for General Admission, $70 for VIP Seats plus a box, picnic meal provided by Thyme Cafe. Student tickets are $20 and FREE for Veterans.

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