Shakespeare Preview: What to See in 2016

SHappy 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.

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).

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.



Review: California Shakespeare Ensemble Highlights Shakespeare’s VILLAINS

CSE - Villains

Jeremy Radin as Shylock and Aaron Leddick as Tubal

Shakespeare’s plays are full of bad guys, or at least plenty of men and women who exhibit bad behavior often enough to be considered bad guys. Angelo in Measure For Measure, Hamlet’s uncle Claudius, and the bastards – Much Ado’s Don John and King Lear’s Edmund – certainly qualify, as does the power-hungry Lady Macbeth. Their motives may vary but, at the core, each is able to justify his or her evil actions as reasonable.

In California Shakespeare Ensemble’s latest production, director Brian Elerding has adapted the text from three of Shakespeare’s plays and crafted an episodic production starring three of his more complicated villains: Macbeth (Russ Bain), Shylock (Jeremy Radin), and Tybalt (Shahaub Roudbari). Rather than intertwining the story lines, each man’s tale remains self-contained and scenes cut back and forth between Scotland (Macbeth), Verona (Romeo and Juliet) and Venice (The Merchant of Venice), in essence making each villain the main focus of his own playlet.  More

Just in Time for Halloween: Shakespeare’s VILLAINS Come To Old Town Pasadena

Shakespeare's Villains

Imagine if Shakespeare’s best villains were taken out of their respective plays, reassembled Frankenstein-style, and finally got to be the focus of their own stories. The California Shakespeare Ensemble will do just that in Shakespeare’s VILLAINS as the company weaves three of the Bard’s finest antagonists into one engaging 90-minute show, using only Shakespeare’s original words. Lineage Performing Arts Center will host the CSE every Sunday at 8pm from Oct. 27 – Nov. 17 in this dark tragicomic look at what it means to be a “villain”.

Shakespeare’s most well-known villains like Iago and Richard III have a long history of fandom. But some of The Bard’s more complex villains may actually show us how much evil is in all of us. Is Shylock really a villain? Is Macbeth? The show follows three of Shakespeare’s villains – Shylock (Merchant of Venice), Macbeth (Macbeth), and Tybalt (Romeo and Juliet) – using Shakespeare’s original words and their own separate stories, but with a new adaptation and edit by CSE artistic director Brian Elerding, who also directs.  More

Review: Lovers and Love Scenes by California Shakespeare Ensemble

Lovers Shrew

Roddy Jessup, Aviva Baumann, and Fred Cross as Bianca and her suitors from The Taming of the Shrew

California Shakespeare Ensemble, in partnership with L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation, staged a light evening of Shakespearean love scenes this past weekend in Altadena’s Farnsworth Park. The event was an encore performance of a program the company presented at Descanso Gardens earlier this summer and consisted of familiar and lesser known scenes from Shakespeare’s plays that explore love in its various stages.

With the moon rising over the intimate outdoor amphitheater, narrator and CSE artistic director Brian Elerding provided the set-up for lovers such as Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Benedick, Kate and Petruchio, and even Margaret and Suffolk throughout the 85-minute program. Seven actors mostly from the world of television brought the scenes to life, often in roles they would not normally be cast in. They included Aviva Baumann, Fred Cross, Roddy Jessup, Jeremy Radin, Kate Siegel, and Samantha Sloyan, along with Elerding. Stylistically the actors took a naturalistic approach to the dialogue much like Joss Whedon’s film treatment of Much Ado About Nothing and though the pacing could been have tightened up within scenes, the text itself was easy to understand, even for those unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s plays.  More

California Shakespeare Ensemble brings LOVERS to Farnsworth Park


Brian Elerding, Fred Cross, Kate Siegel and Samantha Sloyan in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

California Shakespeare Ensemble brings its latest production, LOVERS back for one final performance on Sunday July 14, at 7:30 pm. The 85-minute show is a collection of Shakespeare’s best love scenes ranging from the popular to the obscure, the comic to the tragic, the epic to the trivial, and will take place in Farnsworth Park’s outdoor amphitheater, 568 Mt. Curve Ave. Altadena, CA 91001. Suggested donation is $10. Bring a picnic and a sweater (in case it gets cold).

And a few fun facts about some of the cast members:
Samantha Sloyan has received awards from the LA Weekly and LA Drama Critics Circle, and currently recurs on the ABC show Scandal.
Aviva Baumann starred in Judd Apatow’s Superbad
Brian Elerding occasionally plays a recurring character on AMC’s Mad Men
Fred Cross just finished up as a series regular on the latest season of Joe Schmo

Click Here for more information about the company and we’ll see you in the park!


Samantha Sloyan and Kate Siegel in Twelfth Night

California Shakespeare Ensemble Brings LOVERS to Altadena

LOVERS, CA Shakespeare Ensemble

The California Shakespeare Ensemble is digging out the greatest scenes from all of Shakespeare’s work and performing them live as part of Shakespeare’s Lovers, Sunday June 16th at 7:30 pm. The performance will take place at Altadena’s Farnsworth Park, on the corner of Lake Avenue and Mt. Curve Ave. (568 Mt. Curve Ave, Altadena, CA 91001).

The fast­-paced, fun show is an encore of their popular opening day performance at Descanso Gardens’ Earth Day 2103 celebration this past April made up of ensemble members’ favorite Shakespearean love scenes. You’ll see everything from the popular to the obscure, the comic to the tragic, the epic to the trivial. Some of Shakespeare’s best writing on love rarely sees the light of day. It is buried in lesser­-known plays that don’t have as much box office draw. We all know Romeo and Juliet, but when was the last time you saw Henry VI Part 2? Two Gentlemen of Verona? Shakespeare’s Lovers presents the best of all worlds. Suggested $10 donation at the door. For more about the company visit

The California Shakespeare Ensemble is a theatrical side project for working actors in Los Angeles. Every show’s cast varies, but past guest performers have included Ken Baumann (series lead on ABC Family’s Secret Life of the American Teenager) and David Blue (series lead on Syfy’s Stargate: Universe), Fred Cross (series lead on The Joe Schmo Show) and others.

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