Friday Funny: Courtesy of Popeye the Sailor and Bluto

I haven’t posted a Friday Funny in a while but this one came across my desk and there’s nothing like a good classic. In honor of Shakespeare’s most tragic love story, here is a little pre-show weekend fun: Popeye the Sailor, Olive Oyl, and Bluto in Shakespearian Spinach Epidosde # 76 (January 19, 1940). If only Juliet had had some spinach!

Have a great weekend. Go see some Shakespeare!

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

Review: Shakespeare Orange County’s Romeo & Juliet

SOC Romeo & Juliet

Rámon de Ocampo and his friends. All photos by Jordan Kubat

As an attempt to increase its cultural relevance, involve the community, and expand its audience base, Shakespeare Orange County’s Romeo & Juliet is an admirable venture. Directors Mike Peebler and John Walcutt have integrated several hometown groups to appeal to its neighboring communities: the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association, the 40-year-old folklórico group Relámpago del Cielo from Santa Ana, the Korean Social Club of Orange County, and students from the Orange County School of the Arts.  More

SOC Will Create One Big Family Under the Stars with Romeo and Juliet

SOC Romeo and Juliet

Ramón de Ocampo and Nikki SooHoo

For its first production of Summerfest 2015, Shakespeare Orange County (SOC) applies its theme of uniting ‘One Big Family Under the Stars’ to Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s romantic drama of star-crossed lovers separated by irreconcilable families. Romeo and Juliet will open on July 11, with a special Night in White pre-show dinner package available, and continue through August 1.

Romeo and Juliet, arguably western literature’s most famous love story, was written early in Shakespeare’s career and, along with Hamlet, remains his most frequently performed play. It has inspired art in every media, including Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 film version, which will screen at the amphitheater on June 27.

When producing artistic director John Walcutt took over the 36-year-old company in 2014, it was with a pledge to use Orange County’s centrally located amphitheater to build bridges between generations and across the more than 70 languages spoken in the community.

“Shakespeare’s script shows how a community can be fragmented by hostility and ignorance,” said Walcutt, who co-directs with associate artistic director Mike Peebler. “Our production shows how a community can come together through artistic endeavor.”  More

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

Fringe Review: R&J, a gender-reversed Romeo and Juliet

R&J Mine is Yours

I confess to being very confused by the production. In this modern twist on Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet, women play men and men play women. Or rather, women play male characters as men and men play female characters as women…I think.

My confusion comes with the use of pronouns and lack of consistency in the costuming. For example, Romeo is played by a woman and is now called Romea (Mary Ellen Schneider) and referred to as “she” and “my wife” but she’s playing the role as if she were a man. The same is true of the rest of the female actors. Their stance and posturing is male, and their energy is masculine, but they’re still referred to in the feminine. They’re even dressed mainly in gender-neutral leggings and vests with a masculine edge, and vice versa. The two female roles – Juliet, now Julian (Dane Oliver), and the Nurse (Alan Blumenfeld) – are men playing women as if they were women but they’re referred to in the masculine and dressed in men’s button down shirts and trousers. It’s confusing to even describe it.  More

Shakespeare Orange County Announces Complete Summer Season

Shakespeare Orange County launches Summerfest 2015 on June 13 with a classic radio comedy, followed by productions of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and As You Like It, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, John Slade’s acclaimed I Sing Walt Whitman, an encore presentation of last season’s sold-out hit Trieu Tran (Unplugged), a new play reading, and a new Friday Night Film Series.

The season officially kicks off June 13 with a Celebrity 1939 Radio Show and Gala. The script, an original from the days of live radio, will be performed by an all-star cast including Rene Auberjonois, John de Lancie, Seamus Deaver, Robert Hays, Kurtwood Smith, Nikki Soohoo, Joe Spano, Tamlyn Tomita, Trieu Tran, JoBeth Williams, and Stephanie Zimbalist.

Romeo and JulietRomeo and Juliet opens July 11 and continues through August 1. Shakespeare’s most famous love story, set against the backdrop of two feuding families, becomes an opportunity to celebrate cultural diversity. Co-directors Walcutt and associate artistic director Mike Peebler have cast Trieu Tran and Nikki Soohoo as the star-crossed lovers.

“While Vietnamese and Mexican cultures will be realistically represented,” Walcutt says, “the play’s friction is based in families, which are already intermingled, and not in ethnic differences. The production reflects that larger message. It is produced in association with VAALA, the Orange County School of the Arts, and Relámpago del Cielo, the 50-year-old folklórico group from Santa Ana. Relámpago will be performing live onstage, for instance at the party Romeo crashes. It will be Juliet’s quinceanera, where the guests join in traditional quinceanera dances. It’s going to be very exciting.”  More

The Old Globe Offers Free Monday Night Film Series

This summer, the Old Globe will include FREE Monday night screenings of four Shakespeare films as part of its 2015 Summer of Shakespeare. The films will relate to Shakespeare through the eras and celebrate both the Balboa Park Centennial and the theatre’s 80th Anniversary. They are: Henry V, directed by Laurence Olivier in 1944; Orson Welles’s 1965 classic Chimes At Midnight; Joss Whedon’s 2012 Much Ado About Nothing; and Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s groundbreaking 1961 West Side Story. Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein and Beth Accomando, author of the KPBS blog Cinema Junkie, will alternate introducing the films.

June 29: Henry V (8:15 pm)
Sir Laurence Olivier made his 1944 directorial debut and starred in Henry V, a sparklingly inventive, Oscar-nominated film adaptation of Shakespeare’s epic history play. Olivier brings the Bard’s heroic king to full-blooded life in this breathtaking and passionate cinematic masterpiece.

Chimes at MidnightJuly 13: Chimes at Midnight
(7:00 pm)
Widely considered the greatest film adaptation of Shakespeare ever made, Orson Welles’s acclaimed 1965 masterpiece finds Shakespeare’s most famous supporting character, Sir John Falstaff, taking center stage. Drawing heavily on Henry IV and other histories by the Bard, the film follows the shifting relationship between Prince Hal and his drunken, obese, and altogether charming companion Falstaff (played by Welles himself). This enduring gem, rarely seen on the big screen, delves deep inside one of Shakespeare’s most intriguing players to shine a light on one man’s joys, struggles, and triumphs.


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.

Fringe Spotlight: R&J, a gender reversed Romeo and Juliet

R&J Mine is Yours

Dane Oliver and Mary Ellen Schneider. Photo credit: Jenn Spain Photography

Mine is Yours Theatre Company remounts its adventurous 90-minute production of R&J, a gender-reversed Romeo and Juliet, following a successful preview run last November at Theatre of NOTE. While remaining faithful to Shakespeare’s language, R&J transforms Romeo into Romea, Juliet into Julian, Friar Laurence into Sister Laurence, etc., in an extravaganza of gender-swapping that makes this classic love story resonate in an electrifying new way.

The company knew last fall that they wanted their next production to be a fully gender-reversed Shakespeare classic. Given their mission statement to create more roles for women in every aspect of theatre, Shakespeare’s plays as written can present a challenge in terms of female representation onstage.

Mine is Yours executive director Hannah Pell explains, “Given the theatrical and legal constraints of his era, you can hardly blame Shakespeare for writing primarily male roles, and the female roles he did write are absolutely brilliant! But Shakespeare’s characters embody such fundamental truths about human nature that their words translate beautifully from one gender to another, and we wanted to see what might be revealed about these archetypal characters when you put their words in the mouths of the opposite gender.”   More

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