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


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.

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!

New Swan Shakespeare Festival Presents Two Shakespeare Classics

New Swan - As You Like It

New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s As You Like It. Photos by Paul Kennedy

New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s 5th season is currently featuring two Shakespearean classics, As You Like It and Hamlet, in its mini-Elizabethan theater on the campus of UC Irvine. Since the festival debuted in 2012 the two-play season has grown to include a Music Monday series featuring diverse performances such as “Shakespeare’s Fool” featuring Jason Freddy’s trio, the all-female Mariachi Las Colibrí II, and Mozart Mondays, as well as a seminar series that takes place an hour before curtain.

Eli Simon, New Swan’s artistic director, helms As You Like It, Shakespeare’s beloved comedy of love and disguise, exile and companionship. Simon sets the show in the Depression Era, with original folk music written by Alan Terricciano, and performed by the actors, for an intimate evening of love, fantasy, and companionship…as you like it.

New Swan - Hamlet

New Swan Shakespeare Festival’s Hamlet

Returning for her fourth season with the festival to direct Hamlet is Beth Lopes, associate artistic director of New Swan Shakespeare Festival. At its heart, Hamlet is a ghost story. While most of us push away the shadow of mortality, Hamlet embraces it in the form of his father’s ghost. This ghost is present throughout this production, driving the action forward and forcing his son to grapple with outrageous circumstances.

Lopes says, “We all carry ghosts with us – ghosts which comfort and ghosts which burden – and we can’t always choose which ones we will encounter. Luckily for Hamlet, and for the audience, his father’s ghost appears to us all, and we travel on this journey together as the boy becomes a man … and then a ghost story of his own. This visceral, fast-paced production is perfectly suited for the vulnerable intimacy of the New Swan Theater.”

Please note that, due to the theater configuration, there is no late seating for the performances. For tickets and more information, visit NewSwanShakespeare.com.

Post Mortem Movement Theater uses movement to explore Hamletmachine

I Was Hamlet
Post Mortem Movement Theater’s I Was Hamlet comes to the Hollywood Fringe Festival following its debut last December at the George Burns Soundstage at UCLA. Adapted by Kyle Johnston, Angel Correa, Emily Josephine, and Angela Lopez (who also directs), the one hour piece is a physical adaptation of Heiner Muller’s Hamletmachine. It explores issues of gender and identity, abuse of power, and the tortured nature of performance by combining the grotesque and the awe-inspiring via dance, acrobatics, and various other physical disciplines.

The company has previously received awards for their Fringe productions of Charivari in Voyeurville and Ravens and Writing Desks. Remaining performances are Friday, June 17 (8pm), Sunday, June 19 (1:30 pm) and Saturday, June 25 (5:30 pm) at Actors Company’s Other Space Theater, 916 N. Formosa Avenue, West Hollywood, CA 90046. Tickets: http://hff16.org/3614.

I was Hamlet

I was Hamlet

Two Plays, One Cast for Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern at ACTC


American Coast Theater Company, the resident professional theater of Vanguard University, will present two plays as part of its 2016 Summer Series. Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead will be performed in repertory, in the Lyceum Theater on Vanguard’s Costa Mesa campus, beginning June 3.

Jeremy Aluma, founder of the award-winning clown troupe, Four Clowns, directs Hamlet, while Christi McHale, associate producing director for ACTC, directs Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

“I plan to use the audience as a more involved participant in the play, using them like another character,” said Aluma. “I also want them to have some kind of relationship to the ghosts and death in the play. Life is precious and Hamlet’s hesitancy to kill his uncle is not cowardice; it is his understanding that life is important, which leads us to think about what life is worth.”

The same actors will play roles in both productions, which will allow the audience to experience the characters from two different points of view; one dramatic, the other more comedic, both unified by related themes, questions, and tragedy.

Those actors are Susan Berkompas, James McHale, Paul Eggington, Amanda Zarr, Brock Milhorn, Ian Jenkins, Ahmed Brooks, Katie Canavan, Tyler Thoreson, Aaron McGee, Taylor Stephenson, Andrew Puente, Jason Evans, and Lola Kelly.

In one half of the experience, audiences will hear Shakespeare’s classic verse – in the other, Stoppard’s witty and philosophical modern banter juxtaposed with physical comedy. The two productions will also share a unified aesthetic and design, with scenic elements woven throughout both shows.

“We will be physicalizing the idea of man as a puppet through the action on stage and the design, in a way that we cannot wait to share with audiences,” said McHale. “It’s a wonderfully collaborative process with the actors and whole design team; the device of actors performing a play within a play gives us so much room for creativity and theatricality.”

June 10 – July 3, 2016
June 3 – July 3, 2016
American Coast Theater Company
Vanguard University
The Lyceum Theatre
55 Fair Drive Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tickets: www.ACTCtickets.com

New Web Series from Better Than Shakespeare: Titus and Dronicus

Better Than Shakespeare has launched a fun new web series, Titus and Dronicus, which follows the escapades of two private eyes who investigate crimes inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. Written by Megan Kelly, Madhuri Shekar and Seamus Sullivan, and directed by Liz Rizzo, here is episode one.

For more about the series and to watch all episodes, visit TitusandDronicus.com.


Review: Four Clowns Reinvents Hamlet in their Latest Shakespearean Soiree

Four Clowns Presents Hamlet

L-R: Connor Kelly-Eiding, Andrew Eiden, Corey Johnson, and Charlotte Chanler. Photo by Zach Steel

It’s a little uncanny how easily Shakespeare’s tragedy lends itself to reinvention by a troupe of clowns and still communicates the full measure of the poet’s intent, yet that is exactly what happens in Fours Clowns Presents Hamlet, a guest production at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. To director Turner Munch’s credit, not only does he understand the funny – of which there is plenty in this production – he also knows how to play it off against its polar opposite to create palpable dramatic tension. And he does it with surprising finesse.

This is Shakespeare for people who hate Shakespeare, and for those who love it, for purists and dilettantes, and anyone who wants to see a story told with humor and creativity. More than anything, the 90-minute production is simply a great night at the theatre.

It helps to have a cast who plays full out, at times heartbreakingly so. You expect it to be funny (it’s clowns for goodness sake) but when the moment spins on a dime and lands a stupefying blow to your gut or your heart, that’s when you appreciate how the play has truly become the proverbial putty in their hands.

Hamlet (an excellent Andrew Eidon) on his mother and stepfather’s leash becomes Hamlet on a lunacy bender once the red nose goes on. And just when you think he can’t push the madness any further he pivots into a scene with the fair Ophelia (sweetly played by Elizabeth Godley) that is as delicate and touching as you’d find in any serious production. How the actors realize these scenes is often so beautiful and revelatory that I don’t want to lessen the delight you’ll experience in the moment by going into detail here. Suffice it to say that by extracting the essence of a scene and physicalizing it they are able to use a minimal amount of Shakespeare’s text to tell the story. “Brevity is the soul of wit” is a mantra that this company knows well.

Dave Honigman and Tyler Bremer are the skillful clowns who redefine the phrase “dopey puppy” as Hamlet’s deceptive friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Connor Kelly-Eiding brings an endearing innocence to her role as the huggy Horatio. Each actor is well-matched to his or her character yet it is Joe DeSoto’s wild-eyed, expressive Ghost you’re most likely to remember. Play along. Have fun. This kind of Shakespeare never gets old.

Just as delightful is the way the technical and design elements are integrated into the storytelling and used as building blocks for the action: Elena Flores (costumes, hair & make-up), Alexandra Giron (set and props), Mcleod Benson (lighting), Matt MacCready (technical design), an uncredited but terrific sound design, and Matt Franta’s fight choreography all have exceptional moments.

Ellen Dostal
Shakespeare in LA

Sept 18 – Oct 10, 2015
Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
1238 West 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Tickets: (562) 508-1788 or www.fourclowns.org
Show runs under 90 minutes with no intermission

Hamlet is Going to the Clowns – Four Clowns, that is

Four Clowns presents Hamlet
Four Clowns teams up with the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles for an all new take on one of Shakespeare’s most popular works – Hamlet. Four Clowns presents Hamlet will run for eight performances only, Fridays and Saturdays Sept 18 – Oct 10, all shows at 8pm.

Join the award-winning company as they go on a raucous journey to explore the depths of madness. With Hamlet at the helm – the biggest joker of all time – this highly physical production slips and slides through the pages of Shakespeare, as the clowns hash out the meaning of rosemary and rue. But at the end of the day even clowns can’t take the sting out of mass murder. This is Shakespeare as you’ve never seen before. Alas Poor, Yorick. You thought you knew him well.

Previously Four Clowns has presented two other unique interpretations of Shakespeare classics: an award-winning version of Romeo & Juliet in 2011, and in partnership with CSULB, a devised version of Ubu Roi called Ubu The Sh*t, a French play based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

For the tale of Hamlet, a cast of nine – including several new members of the company – is directed by long-time company member and director Turner Munch. Munch says, “This is not a bunch of clowns trying to ‘perform’ the play of Hamlet. Our clowns assume these roles and are making these choices.”

The show stars Drew Eiden as Hamlet, with Tyler Bremer (Guildenstern), Charlotte Chanler (Gertrude), Joe DeSoto (Laertes/Ghost) , Scotty Farris (Polonius), Elizabeth Godley (Ophelia), Dave Honigman (Rosencrantz), Corey Johnson (Claudius), and Connor Kelly-Eiding (Horatio).

The creative team includes Matthew MacCready (technical director), McLeod Benson (lighting designer), Alexandra Giron (set & props designer), Elena Flores (costume, hair, & make-up designer), Matt Franta (fight choreographer), Julianna Stephanie Ojeda (production manager), Zach Steel (graphic designer), Ashley Jo Navarro (stage manager), Jeremy Aluma (artistic director/producer) and producers David Anthony Anis and Sara Waugh.

Sept 18 – Oct 10, 2015
Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
1238 West 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90026
Tickets: (562) 508-1788 or www.fourclowns.org
Show runs under 90 minutes with no intermission.

THE HAMLET PROJECT Returns To Los Angeles

The Hamlet Project

After a two-year absence, Loose Canon Collective’s The Hamlet Project is returning to Los Angeles for an extended run at the legendary Park Plaza Hotel. Since the debut of The Hamlet Project in 2011, the show has been mounted fourteen different times in three different cities and has received a great deal of attention. All shows begin promptly at 8:00 pm but you can come any time after 7:00 pm to enjoy some pre-show entertainment.

Also, between now and opening weekend The Hamlet Project is offering a special $10 pre-sale offer. Buy your tickets now for the discount. Remaining tickets will be $15 cash at the door. (Shows are anticipated to sell out.)

What is The Hamlet Project? Check out the trailer below!

February 19, 20, 26, 27 & March 5, 2015
Park Plaza Hotel
607 S Park View Street
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Click Here for tickets
For more information go to www.loosecanoncollective.com

Want to be Part of The Global Hamlet?

Global Hamlet

The Global Hamlet Project will officially launch in April 2015 and you’ll be reading about it here on Shakespeare in LA in the coming months. What is The Global Hamlet? Born from the concept of collective intelligence, The Global Hamlet (defined “groundbreaking” by Shakespearean actor Ben Crystal and “wonderful” by Michael Dobson, director of the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford-upon-Avon) will be the first people’s edition of a literary work ever made; it will be the whole world translating, annotating and illustrating Shakespeare’s Hamlet in many languages through the internet.

Project participants will be invited to help annotate Shakespeare’s Hamlet not only with text, but also with traditional images and videos of the play, and to illustrate its scenes through drawings and clips. Everyone can participate, under the supervision of expert Shakespearean editors, with the intent to create from the ground up the highest quality edition of Hamlet written by the people.

There will be many ways to become part of the project. The first is for participants to submit a recording of themselves saying “I am Hamlet.” Easy, right? Men, women, young and old, are all invited to participate in this video. More

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