Review: ISC’s Much Ado About Nothing is a 1940s Charmer


David Melville (Benedick) and Melissa Chalsma (Beatrice). Photos by Reynaldo Macias

One of the keys to providing great entertainment is understanding your audience. For a theatre company, that means knowing what your audience wants and then being able to provide it so they keep coming back for more. Independent Shakespeare Co. has done a brilliant job of both. Not only do they play to crowds that number in the thousands each night during their Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival, but they always find a way to connect with the audience and make them feel like they’re in on the fun.

In Much Ado About Nothing, their latest production in the park, director Jeff Wienckowski ensures that connection with staging that often takes the characters out among the people, with plenty of hilarious results. The famous pair of scenes in which Beatrice (Melissa Chalsma) and Benedick (David Melville) are each fooled by their friends into thinking the other is in love with him or her takes place right in the laps of those on the lawn, much to the delight of everyone around them.  More


Independent Shakespeare Co. Announces Extension of Romeo & Juliet

Romeo and Juliet - ISC

Erika Soto and Nikhil Pai as Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Grettel Cortes

For the first time in 12 years, Independent Shakespeare Co. will extend one of its Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival productions – its critically-acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, directed by ISC Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma. The punk rock fairy tale will play September 4 – 6, following Much Ado About Nothing, which runs through August 30.

Adolescent bliss spins out of control in this imaginative staging of Shakespeare’s famous love story. This new adaptation incorporates an original rock score and design that is equal parts fairy tale and punk. Erika Soto and Nikhil Pai (in the title roles) lead a cast of Independent Shakespeare Co.’s most popular performers. They combine the textual clarity ISC is known for with a passionate and athletic physicality to create a Romeo and Juliet that explodes off the Griffith Park stage.

“We have been blown away by the tremendous audience reception to our production of Romeo and Juliet,” says Melissa Chalsma. For the first time we are extending the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival to satisfy all the people who wanted to see more performances of our production.”

In addition to Soto and Pai, the cast includes Joseph Culliton, Thomas Ehas, William Elsman, Mary Goodchild, Faqir Hassan, Aisha Kabia, Jack Lancaster, André Martin, David Melville, Xavi Moreno, Vladimir Noel, Ashley Nguyen,Sean Pritchett, Evan Lewis Smith, and Bernadette Sullivan.

For more information, call (818) 710-6306 or go to

ISC Gets Ready for Much Ado About Nothing in Griffith Park

ISC - Much Ado

L-R: Ashley Nguyen, David Melville and Erwin Tuazon.

This summer, Griffith Park becomes the post-WWII Mediterranean countryside when Independent Shakespeare Co. opens Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. The show will begin previews at The Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival on Thursday, July 30 at 7pm and will open on Saturday, August 8 at 7pm and perform through Sunday, August 30 at Old Zoo in Griffith Park. All ISC Summer Shakespeare productions are FREE to the public.

The time period is summer of 1945 in Messina, where we find Don Pedro and his battalion enjoying a much-needed respite in Leonato’s bomb-riddled villa. While awaiting the nuptials of Claudio and Hero, Don Pedro and his men amuse themselves by playing Cupid between Beatrice, Hero’s witty and sharp-tongued cousin, and confirmed bachelor-for-life Benedick. As the wine flows in Leonato’s villa, discord emerges, judgment is clouded, and passions are set ablaze by the most powerful intoxicant of all: love.

Much Ado About Nothing will fill the Park with laughter, music and dancing,” says director Jeffrey Wienckowski. “But in this roaring party there is a sudden turn where things get very real and very dark. It is this dichotomy that allows clownish physical comedy to live right alongside very real dramatic tension. This works perfectly with ISC’s trademark spontaneous style that always expertly walks that line between comedy and drama. The play will feature music of the 1940s as well as original compositions by Chris Porter. The 1940s gives an important backdrop of battle to the play, and it also instills a sense of nostalgia and romance. Much Ado About Nothing is a very human story about the fallibility of lovesick hearts.”

The cast will feature Jose Acain, Richard Azurdia, Danny Brown, Danny Campbell, Melissa Chalsma, Joseph Culliton, Thomas Ehas, William Elsman, André Martin, David Melville, Xavi Moreno, Marcelo Olivas, Evan Lewis Smith, Bernadette Sullivan, Napoleon Tavale and Erwin Tuazon. Season production design is by Caitlin Lainoff. Season lighting design is by Bosco Flanagan and costume design is by Amanda Lee. Currently ISC is presenting Romeo & Juliet in Griffith Park through July 26. For more information, call (818) 710-6306 or go to

Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival Opens w/ Punk Fairy Tale Romeo & Juliet

Erica Soto and Nikhil Pai. Photo credit: Mike Ditz

Erika Soto and Nikhil Pai as Romeo & Juliet. Photo credit: Mike Ditz

This summer Independent Shakespeare Co. presents its imaginative and soul-stirring take on the most famous love story of all time, Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, directed by Independent Shakespeare Co.’s Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma. Romeo & Juliet is the first of two productions being presented at this year’s Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival. Much Ado About Nothing will play July 30 – August 30. Best of all, ISC Summer Shakespeare productions are FREE to the public!

Adolescent bliss spins out of control in an imaginative adaptation that incorporates an original rock score and design that is equal parts fairy tale and punk. Erika Soto and Nikhil Pai (in the title roles) lead a cast of ISC’s most popular performers. They combine the textual clarity ISC is known for with a passionate and athletic physicality to create a Romeo & Juliet that explodes off the Griffith Park stage.  More

ISC’s Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival Opens June 25

ISC in the park2

Romeo & Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing will be the entertainment for a summer night in Griffith Park when Independent Shakespeare Co. opens its 2015 season of the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival on June 25.

Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma says, “Without a doubt, the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival is the highlight of our year. The audience brings such amazing joy and excitement, the park is a gorgeous refuge, and our company of artists is the strongest it’s ever been. It’s an honor to bring so many Angelenos together to experience wonderful theater!”

Managing Director David Melville adds, “Our production of Romeo & Juliet had a sell-out run in our Independent Studio at Atwater Crossing last spring – it was so special that we knew we wanted to share it with a larger audience. We are very excited to be bringing an expanded version of the production to Griffith Park this summer. Much Ado About Nothing is also one of our favorites. Since the last time we tackled it our audience has grown exponentially – in 2010, our first year in Griffith Park, we were excited to close with more than 600 people in the audience, now we average 1,100 individuals at each performance!”  More

Review: PERICLES, A Shakespearean Soap Opera Without the Blood


André Martin as Pericles. Photos by Grettel Cortes

Each summer in Griffith Park, Independent Shakespeare Co. presents fully-produced large scale performances for hundreds of people on a nightly basis. Instead of the expensive dinner and a movie scenario, families flock to the park for a more neighborly picnic and a play. It’s friendly, affordable (the play is free), and fun…and that’s about as good as it gets on a summer night in LA.

During the off season, the company returns to its much smaller 49-seat theater in Atwater Village for a more experimental approach to Shakespeare and other classics. Here they are able to try out new ideas and play around with concepts that may grow into future festival productions or simply inspire short-term creativity. They also offer classes for the public, music nights, discussions, and other special one-night-only events, always with an eye to entertaining their growing community of friends and fans.

ISC’s latest studio production, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, directed by Melissa Chalsma, is a perfect example of this kind of experimentation in which the space becomes a playground, of sorts, for a small group of seven actors to bring Shakespeare’s epic adventure tale to life. More

More Shakespeare at the Huntington Fun

Bard Meets Beatles

On Friday, April 17, join The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles and SCLA’s Will Power to Schools program for a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented by students from East LA Performing Arts Magnet High School. It’s the Bard Meets the Beatles in this magical journey through one hard day’s night staged on Mr. Huntington’s beautiful back porch. There will be a reception at 5:00 pm and the performance begins at 5:30 pm. The Huntington Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108. [Reservations currently at capacity]

Then on Saturday, April 18, it’s Shakespeare Day at the Huntington. Stop by the SCLA booth between 11:00 am – 3:00 pm and create something unique with Shakespeare’s words. Feeling sweet? Devise a compliment to stir your true love’s heart. Feeling salty? Create an insult to give your next incident of road rage a theatrical flair.

Gardens 1

Also from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm, Independent Shakespeare Co. will be performing scenes from some of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays in locations throughout the grounds. The family-friendly day includes interactive workshops and craft activities (like the one described above) for exploring Shakespeare and his world. Cost: Free with admission to The Huntington. For more information call (626) 405-2100 or go to

Huntington 2014

Independent Shakespeare Co. Presents New Adaptation of Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Pericles - ISC

Independent Shakespeare Co., presenters of the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival and recipients of the 2015 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater, will produce a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre, April 24 – May 2. Directed by ISC Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma, the fantastic story includes shipwrecks, pirates, a king who uses the skulls of his victims as interior design, an abandoned baby, and a knight in rusted armor fighting for love. At every turn, Pericles confronts events both grotesque and miraculous as his long and brilliant history unfolds. It is one of Shakespeare’s strangest plays and includes adult themes and situations.

Comments Melissa Chalsma, “This curious collaboration between Shakespeare and George Wilkins (an aspiring writer and brothel keeper) was born of mutual opportunism: Shakespeare was grappling with the new popular demands for ‘city comedies’ full of topical issues and scenes depicting frank portrayals of sexual situations, and Wilkins wanted literary respect. More

Audition Update: ISC and Tennessee Shakespeare Company

Independent Shakespeare Co. is holding open call auditions for the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival March 30 and 31 from 10:00 – 6:00 in their Atwater Village Studio, 3191 Casitas Ave. #168, Los Angeles, CA 90039. AEA members will be seen first but they will also see as many non-union actors as possible. Please prepare one short (less than two minutes) classical speech and bring a copy of your resume & photo. Actors of color are strongly encouraged to apply. If you are unable to attend this call you may submit your headshot and resume to: Melissa Chalsma, 3191 Casitas Avenue, Suite 168, Los Angeles, CA 90039. They do not accept video submissions.

Breakdown: Much Ado About Nothing – All roles available except Beatrice and Benedict. Romeo and Juliet – All roles available except Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio and the Nurse

The festival is outdoors so they are looking for actors with strong voices, good speech and a background in classical theater.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company will hold Equity Principal auditions in North Hollywood March 30 from 10:00 – 6:00 pm for Midsummer Night, composed by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda (Striking 12, Sleeping Beauty Wakes). Midsummer Night is a rollicking rethinking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in a rock festival. Rock stars Titania and Oberon quarrel, rock assistant Puck creates havoc, and roadie Bottom gets a chance to shine. This audition is for a six-day developmental workshop with one reading in Memphis, TN. It is being presented by Theatrical Rights Worldwide in partnership with Tennessee Shakespeare Company and the University of Memphis. Director: Janet Roston. Music Director: Ryan O’Connell.

They are looking for singers who can read music and harmonize quickly. Performers must also be comfortable with a contemporary portrayal of Shakespeare text. Please prepare 32 bars from an up-tempo rock song and 32 bars from a rock ballad. Bring a photo and resume. Non-Equity performers will be seen only once all Equity performers have been scheduled and seen.

Location: Madilyn Clark Studios, 10852 Burbank Blvd, N. Hollywood, CA 91601. Callbacks: April 3, 2015. Midsummer Night: June 22-27, 2015. Performers will be provided with round-trip flight to Memphis, plus housing. For more information and a complete breakdown of roles, visit For more about the company, go to

Celebrate with Independent Shakespeare Co. at their SPRING FROLIC!

ISC Spring Frolic

Tickets are on sale now for Independent Shakespeare Co.’s annual Spring fundraiser Spring Frolic! on Sunday, April 26, 2015. Proceeds support the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival, which provides free, professional theater to tens of thousands of Angelenos each summer. The show will feature your favorite ISC performers in scenes and songs along with appearances by special guests. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell will also make introductory remarks and the company honors Tom LaBonge as part of the festivities. Come celebrate Spring with your friends at ISC!

Independent Shakespeare Co.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
2:00 Cocktails and music on the Barnsdall Art Park Plaza (outdoors)
3:00 Performance in the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre (indoors)
Tickets are $75 and include the performance and pre-show party.
Tickets: (818) 710-6306 or

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