Kingsmen’s Upcoming MIDSUMMER has Special Meaning for Director Brett Elliott

Midsummer - Kingsmen

L-R: Pallavi Srinivasan (Peaseblossom), Marc Silver (Bottom) and Nawal Bengholam i(Titania). Photo by Brian Stethem/Cal Lutheran.

It was a moment of art becoming life for Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s associate artistic director, Brett Elliott, when he played Lysander in the festival’s revival of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2006. That was the year he proposed to his wife, Jane, onstage while she played opposite him in the role of Hermia.

To make it even more romantic (get ready to swoon ladies) Elliott used only Shakespeare’s text, and neither he nor Jane stopped the scene or broke character. He did add a single prop – a real diamond ring.

For this production, opening July 15, the roles of Lysander and Hermia will be played by Cal Lutheran alumnus Seta Wainiqolo, a graduate student at Yale School of Drama, and Angela Gulner, a graduate of the American Repertory Theater Institute at Harvard University. Gulner played Viola two years ago in the company’s production of Twelfth Night and was last seen as the French princess, Katherine, in Henry V.

Elliott sets the play in a world reminiscent of the British Raj in India at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution because he has long been struck by several references to the Indian subcontinent in the play. He says the setting is “a place where the logic and technology of the West rubs against the art and spirit of the East, where the ancient mingles with the modern, where love crosses all boundaries, and where all who enter the forest emerge changed.” Resident composer Christopher Hoag has created an orchestral score with a Hindustani Classical influence for the play.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors, the mechanicals, who are all controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. It was also the first play performed by Kingsmen Shakespeare Company for its festival in 1997.

In addition to Wainiqolo and Gulner, the cast will also feature returning Kingsmen veterans Andy Babinski as Philostrate, Michael Faulkner as Theseus, Ross Hellwig as Demetrius, Robert Nairn as Starveling, Jason D. Rennie as Puck, Marc Silver as Bottom and John Slade as Quince. Company newcomer Nawal Bengholam will play Titania. Ty Mayberry follows his title role in Henry V by playing Oberon. In another real life coincidence, Mayberry’s two young sons, Lucas and Leo, will make their stage debut as Changelings.

July 15 – 31, 2016 (8pm)
Kingsmen Park on the Thousand Oaks campus of California Lutheran University
Festival grounds open at 5:30 pm for picnicking and entertainment.
General admission is $20 for adults and free for children under 18. Individual tickets are available at the door only. For lawn box reservations, visit or call 805-493-3452. The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company is the professional theater company of Cal Lutheran.


Review: Imagination Reigns in Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s HENRY V

Henry V - Kingsmen

Ty Mayberry (center) and the cast of Henry V

Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s production of Henry V takes its cue from one of Shakespeare’s most well-known speeches, “O for a Muse of fire…,” the prologue to this play. In it, Shakespeare invites the audience to use its imagination in viewing what is about to transpire, to picture the battle scenes that will take place and the great kings who will lead their armies across the vast countryside, all represented on this humble stage.

Director Michael J. Arndt follows through with this idea of sparking imagination by taking a minimalist approach to the production design leaving a wide open stage upon which fight choreographer Jason D. Rennie stages battle scenes using the largest number of actors to date in a Kingsmen production – some 35 in all. For the Battle of Agincourt, Rennie even incorporates the use of synchronized longbows which were vital to the English conquering the French, who greatly outnumbered them on the battlefield. The effect is quite stunning.  More

Christopher Hoag’s Cinematic Approach to Creating Music for Shakespeare

For the past seven years, composer Christopher Hoag has conjured up battle scenes, storms, romance, and adventure with his music for Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s annual summer festival. If you’ve seen one of their productions, you know how beautifully his rich orchestral scores enhance Shakespeare’s text on their outdoor festival stage. He’s back again this year writing music for two shows: the currently running Henry V, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opening July 15. Here he talks about the process of bringing the world of Shakespeare’s plays to life with music.

Chris Hoag

Christopher Hoag

Chris, you’re working with director Michael Arndt on Henry V. Where do you find your musical inspiration?

The reasons why the director and I make the stylistic choices we do for the Kingsmen scores are always varied. Sometimes it’s the period, sometimes it comes from a conceptual approach to the play. In the case of our Henry V, it was a combination of both. The score really stems from Michael’s idea to put the Chorus in modern times as a documentary narrator/TV reporter, and the actual events of the play proper in a more period setting. I had to bridge those two worlds. So I thought it would be fun to do a very electronic sounding score; one that’s still dramatic and orchestral in nature, but using predominately electronic orchestrations towards that end. The score is really an homage to the electronic scores that I grew up with in the 80s by composers like Vangelis, Michael Stearns, Tangerine Dream, and Wendy Carlos. It’s been great fun exploring these sounds both in a modern and period context.

The electronics also have a tendency to be a bit cooler and removed emotionally, which I believe reflects Michael’s interest in how modern media portrays serious events through a sometimes very aloof and self-serving lens. Ultimately, much of the play is about war; the triumphs and the tremendous tragedies. And those things are also major points of reference for the music.

Are there particular cues or sequences we should listen for?

I feel very fortunate in that I am often asked to write an “overture” for the Kingsmen shows. It’s a bit of an old-fashioned thing to do, but as a composer it’s a great opportunity to stretch out and to musically “set the emotional stage” for what you are about to experience. It’s also very helpful for me to draw from it as I go through the process of scoring the rest of the play. The overture for Henry V states the main motifs that recur numerous times throughout the show.

Beyond that, I’d suggest listening for the “Once more unto the breach” speech which goes into the siege at Harfleur. I love scoring dialog. It’s a delicate thing, but when it’s working there’s nothing better for me personally. And this is such a rousing and powerful speech. Here, the music is constantly building and modulating, but never quite resolving….until the final charge into battle.

Of course, aside from the director, it’s always a hugely important thing for the actors to be okay with the music I write for them. And in this case our Henry, played brilliantly by Ty Mayberry, asked for a copy of the music so he could work with it. The cue is in two parts and it’s built in such a way that Ty has plenty of room to play. It’s a good example of the wonderfully collaborative nature of this company.  More

HENRY V Kicks Off Kingsmen’s 20th Summer Season

Henry V - Kingsmen

L-R: Chris Reynolds-Baldwin and Ty Mayberry. Photo credit: Brian Stethem/Cal Lutheran

Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 20th season, and the 400th anniversary of the Bard of Avon’s death, with Shakespeare’s Henry V. Performances are June 24 – July 10 in Kingsmen Park on the Thousand Oaks campus of California Lutheran University. Festival grounds open at 5:30 pm for picnicking and pre-show entertainment.

Michael J. Arndt, a founding member of the festival and the company’s artistic director, directs. Ty Mayberry, who debuted at the festival in 2013 as Hamlet, will play King Henry. The production will also feature a number of Kingsmen veterans. Marc Silver, who appeared in the first season and many thereafter, plays Pistol. Returning after several years’ absence is octogenarian Robert Nairn in the role of Sir Thomas Erpingham.

Other returning Kingsmen favorites include Michael Faulkner, Angela Gulner and Ross Hellwig. John Slade, who directed Henry V at the 2004 festival and has played King Lear and other Kingsmen roles, will portray the Archbishop of Canterbury and Charles the Sixth, King of France. Jason Rennie, who was in the first Kingsmen Apprentice Company and performed as the pre-show “fire breather” in the early years, is choreographing several battle sequences employing most of the 35 cast members.

Henry V is the only one of Shakespeare’s histories that features a chorus character who narrates the action. Kingsmen’s production sets the play in the historical period of the real King Henry, but the chorus character will be portrayed as a 21st-century news reporter, presenting the story as if she were narrating a documentary film.

It will feature a distinctive set by Erik Diaz, period costumes by Howard Schmitt, lighting by Leigh Allen and an original electronic music score by Christopher Hoag. (Hoag’s scores, by the way, are typically stunning.)

The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company is the professional theater company of Cal Lutheran. The company also provides apprentice programs for professional and aspiring Shakespearean actors, an educational tour program and summer youth theater camps.

June 24 – July 10, 2016 (8pm)
Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival
General admission tickets are $20 for adults and free for children under 18. Individual tickets are available at the door only. For lawn box reservations, visit or call 805-493-3014.

Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival Season Concludes with Richard III

Richard III - KingsmenThe 19th season of the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival will conclude on a tragic note with Richard III. Performances run July 17 through August 2 in Kingsmen Park on the Thousand Oaks campus of California Lutheran University. Festival grounds open at 5:30 pm for picnicking and entertainment.

The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company last presented Richard III a decade ago. With Richard finally having been given an official burial in March after his long-lost body was unearthed and the popularity of the HBO series Game of Thrones, which is based on the Wars of the Roses, the time seemed right to revisit the play.

One of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, Richard III was written around 1592 about the final chapter in the Wars of the Roses. King Edward IV of the House of York sits on the throne unaware that his brother, Richard of Gloucester, has a Machiavellian passion to take the crown and will stop at nothing. Richard plots to eliminate everyone who gets in his way.

Cast members include several newcomers to the Kingsmen stage: Jason McBeth as Richard, Angela Sauer as Queen Elizabeth, Gillian Doyle as Margaret, Jamey Hecht as the Duke of Clarence and Seta Wainiqolo as Richmond. The cast will also include Rachel Seiferth as Lady Anne, Ross Hellwig as Buckingham, Marc Silver as Hastings and Harold Dixon as Stanley.

General admission is $20 for adults and free for those under 18. Individual tickets are available at the door only. For lawn box reservations, visit or call 805-493-3014.

Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival Presents Measure for Measure for the First Time

Measure-for-MeasureThis summer, the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival at California Lutheran University will feature Measure for Measure for the first time in its 19 years, directed by Michael J. Arndt. First staged in 1604, the play reflects important issues in Shakespeare’s day including immorality and accompanying diseases, the rise of a conservative Puritan movement and mistrust of rulers. Though it contains many comic scenes and characters, the play deals with the darker issues of retribution, justice and mercy.

The Kingsmen production is set in the Montmartre district of Paris in the late 1890s. The political atmosphere in Paris was sharply divided between an ultraconservative Christian faction on the right and a socialist faction on the left. The artists and other residents of the Montmartre were held in poor regard although many of the wealthy bourgeois visited the prostitutes and clubs like the Moulin Rouge. The Kingsmen play will begin with a Moulin Rouge-type show featuring cancan dancers.  More

Kingsmen Shakespeare Camp adds Puppet Workshop

Shakespeare Camp 2015The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company Summer Theatre Camp is adding a new Puppet Workshop to its schedule this year. In the new session taught by camp director Aaron Anthony Bonilla, campers 8 to 16 will build and learn to manipulate marionettes culminating in a public showcase of scenes from Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare Camp, now in its 30th year, is co-presented by California Lutheran University and provides opportunities for children to learn theater techniques and try them out on stage while developing self-awareness, confidence and discipline.

In Beginning Shakespeare, children aged 8 to 12 will learn about the Bard, textual analysis, vocabulary, stage movement and combat techniques as they prepare to present a condensed version of Taming of the Shrew or Comedy of Errors. Training for 8- to 16-year-olds continues with Advanced Shakespeare, which covers Shakespeare scenes, stage combat, period dance and acting techniques in more depth and concludes with the presentation of an abridged Macbeth. This year, Advanced Shakespeare will be an all-day camp, and all-day and half-day options will be available for Beginning Shakespeare.

Musical Theatre for 12- to 16-year-olds will cover vocal technique, acting and dance and end with a performance of selections from a musical.

Bonilla_AaronBonilla, in his second year as director, helped develop the curriculum and designed the teacher-development program for the apprentices who teach in the camp. A graduate of the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, he has devoted himself to theater production, performance and education for 14 years. He has also worked with the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in downtown LA and taught private lessons with The Puppet School of Culver City.

Barbara Wegher-Thompson, who teaches dance and movement at Cal Lutheran and has been involved with the Young Artists Ensemble, will again teach Musical Theatre. Teachers, actors and Kingsmen Shakespeare Company members round out the staff.

Two-week sessions begin June 15 and continue through July 31. Classes will be held in the Cal Lutheran Theatre Arts Building and adjoining spaces.

For more information, visit, call 805-493-3452 or email Registration is available online.

Review: Hollywood Meets Fascist Italy in Kingsmen’s Antony and Cleopatra

Kingsmen - Antony and Cleopatra

Shad Willingham and Cynthia Beckert as Antony and Cleopatra with Dekyi Ronge (Charmian)and Natasha Buran (Iras)

It’s all about the love story in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and this one has at its core the epic romance of the ages – Mark Antony and the notorious Queen of the Nile – two dramatic individuals consumed with passion of whom much has been written. It’s a perfect choice for Kingsmen Shakespeare Company’s final offering of the 2014 summer season and delivers another lovely night of Shakespeare under the stars just a short drive up the 101 to Thousand Oaks.

Kingsmen’s production is set in the 1930s where two distinct worlds emerge: Cleopatra’s Egypt, done up in the image of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and Mark Antony’s Rome, seen here as Mussolini’s fascist Italy. They are as different as night and day in director John Slade’s artful vision and his design team has done a beautiful job of making each one ring with authenticity on the company’s outdoor festival stage.  More

Shad Willingham and Cynthia Beckert to Star in Antony and Cleopatra

Kingsmen - Antony and Cleopatra

Shad Willingham and Cynthia Beckert

The Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival will feature Antony and Cleopatra for the first time during its 18th annual season. Shakespeare’s classic historical tragedy will be performed Saturdays and Sundays July 18 – August 3 in scenic Kingsmen Park at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. The festival grounds open at 5:30 pm for picnicking and pre-show entertainment begins at 6:25 pm.

The play focuses on the great love story of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra and the Roman general Marc Antony. The Kingsmen production, under the direction of award-winning director and actor John Slade of Ojai, is set in the fascist world of the 1930s amid the clash of cultures and a treacherous world of shifting alliances.  More

Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival Sets Twelfth Night in the Vaudeville Era

Kingsmen - Twelfth Night 2 Elyse Mirto (Olivia) & Jerry Lloyd (Malvolio). Photo credit: Brian Stethem/CLU

Another Twelfth Night is coming to the southland this summer when Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival opens its 18th season on June 27. KSF’s Twelfth Night will be set in the vaudeville era and is directed by CLU alumnus Kevin P. Kern. Shakespeare’s classic comedy runs through July 13 in Kingsmen Park at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

Twelfth Night depicts a world out of kilter with disguises and wacky slapstick moments. Scenes are set in a speakeasy with Feste, played by Reduced Shakespeare Company member Michael Faulkner, as a singing vaudeville comedian. Original music composed by Christopher Hoag adds to the period feel. Shad Willingham, a theater faculty member at CSUN will play Orsino and Elyse Mirto (Gertrude from last summer’s Hamlet), will play Olivia.  More

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