Shakespeare Spotlight: What to See in 2014

SIt’s Shakespeare for the masses in 2014 as we celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth! In Southern California you’ll find more productions and events than ever so mark your calendar now for a big year ahead.

L.A. Theatre Works kicks off its 2014 radio theatre series with The Comedy of Errors starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Hamish Linklater, and Emily Bergl. Ferguson and Linklater delighted audiences last summer as Shakespeare’s Antipholus and Dromio twins in The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production in New York. See the hilarity in person January 30 – February 2 when The Comedy of Errors is performed and recorded at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater for broadcast on public radio nationwide. http://latw.org

The Porters of Hellsgate begin their eighth season with Henry V, previewing on Valentine’s Day at The Whitmore in North Hollywood. Artistic director, Charles Pasternak, will direct and play the title role, one he received rave reviews for last summer at Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Leon Russom also returns to The Porters following up his role as Gloucester in King Lear with one of Shakespeare’s most famous narrators of all. I can hear “O for a Muse of fire…” now. www.portersofhellsgate.com  More

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A MIDSUMMER Saturday NIGHT’S Fever DREAM, Troubie Style

A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream- The Troubies

There are no fewer than nine different productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream playing in theatres around the Southland this summer but I can guarantee that none of them will be done up quite like the Troubies’ A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream at the Falcon Theatre. Combining Shakespeare’s text with iconic Bees Gees songs from the “Saturday Night Fever” disco era, and adding an abundance of improvised jokes, over-the-top sight gags, and plenty of audience participation, they once again celebrate the mischief that inevitably happens on a Troubie stage.

Most of Shakespeare’s familiar plot happens in Act I. After an ominous prologue by trickster Puck (Matt Walker, who also directs) and a brief set-up of characters, we escape to the woods where the real action takes place. Here Faeries play tricks at the expense of four Tolucean lovers. Helena (Beth Kennedy) loves Demetrius (Joseph Leo Bwarie), Demetrius loves Hermia (Katherine Malak), Hermia loves Lysander (Tyler King), and no one loves Helena…that is until the Faerie King Oberon (Matt Merchant) orders Puck to use a magical flower to tilt the scales in Helena’s favor. When Puck anoints the wrong lover’s eyes it becomes merry mayhem for all, including Oberon’s Queen Titania (Monica Schneider), on this mercurial midsummer night.  More

Get Your Shakespeare Dance Card Ready for these Productions in 2013

Top picks for 2013. Keep in mind that not all of the usual suspects have announced their seasons so I’ll have more info to come, but for now, here’s a look at some Southern California Shakespeare productions not to miss.

Kicking off the New Year with the first Shakespeare production of 2013 will be The Porters of Hellsgate presenting King Lear, opening January 4 at studio/stage in Hollywood. The Porters are an ambitious young company, and with Larry Cedar in the title role, their production of Lear promises to be one not to miss. Thomas Bigley directs. www.portersofhellsgate.com

The Chicago-based Improvised Shakespeare Company will make an appearance in Southern California at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach on March 9. ISC is a crazy bunch of actors who turn Shakespeare upside down by creating a completely improvised play in Elizabethan style all from an audience suggestion. They put on one of the funniest performances you’ll ever see; this is your chance to catch them here in our area, complete with star-crossed lovers, sword fights, Shakespearean insults and maddening mayhem. http://www.carpenterarts.org/2012-2013/the-improvised-shakespeare-company.html

Two of Shakespeare’s plays get the musical treatment in 2013 and both feature a reinvention of their respective plays. At South Coast Rep it’s The Verona Project, a hip, modern interpretation of Two Gentlemen of Verona that features a rock band called The Verona Project to tell the story. It originated at Cal Shakes in Northern California and is written and directed by Amanda Dehnert. [Note: this production has been cancelled]

The other is The Troubadour Theatre Company’s A Midsummer Saturday Night’s Fever Dream which will play in Toluca Lake at the Falcon Theatre May 31 – July 7 and at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts July 12 – 14. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the 70’s disco classic Saturday Night Fever will be blended up and served Troubie style, complete with fairy wings, tights and white disco suits in this updated version of the Troubie favorite. www.falcontheatre.com

Thousands of Angelenos look forward to Independent Shakespeare Co.’s Free Shakespeare Festival in Griffith Park each year and the 2013 summer season looks to be the best yet. Last year’s absolutely charming benefit performance of As You Like It, starring Melissa Chalsma as Rosalind, will have a full run this summer, along with Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth, and Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer. If you’ve never been to the festival, make this the year you see what the buzz is all about. My lawn chair and picnic basket are ready and waiting. www.iscla.org

Topanga Canyon also has its own popular outdoor theatre among the stars, The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum; a favorite of locals since the early 1950s. The company’s summer will kick off in June with The Taming of the Shrew and though no casting has been announced, it’s fun to speculate who will be sparring onstage as Kate and Petruchio. www.theatricum.com

In San Diego, The Old Globe’s Summer Shakespeare Festival finds Miles Anderson returning as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (June 9 – Sept. 28). If you saw him as Prospero in The Tempest, you’ll know why his Shylock is high on my list of plays to see in 2013. Adrian Noble directs. The Old Globe’s season also features A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. www.theoldglobe.org

You’ll have to wait until Fall to see RII, but Boston Court’s adaptation of Richard II, conceived and directed by Jessica Kubzansky, will hit the stage beginning September 5. It features three actors and is billed as a theatrical, raw, stripped down take on the ultimate identity crisis. It’s an exciting concept and one that is sure to be a high point of the Shakespeare season. www.bostoncourt.com/events/163/r-ii

And if you want to get your Shakespeare fix in the comfort of your own living room, don’t miss the new PBS series, Shakespeare Uncovered, which will air Fridays, January 25 – February 8. Hosts include Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Trevor Nunn, Joely Richardson and David Tennant. The episodes feature interviews with actors, directors and scholars, along with visits to key locations, clips from some of the most celebrated film and television adaptations, and illustrative excerpts from the plays specially staged for the series at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Episode 1: Macbeth with Ethan Hawke. www.pbs.org

Who Stole the Show in The Troubies’ Two Gentlemen of Chicago?

Matt Walker, Christine Lakin, Monica Schneider, and Rob Nagle. Photos by Chelsea Sutton

The inspired mockery of the Troubadour Theatre Company’s latest production Two Gentlemen of Chicago proves that a great idea never gets old. Following their highly successful formula of combining Shakespeare’s text with iconic music and mining it for laughs; they have once again concocted a show that hits its target from every angle. With an abundance of pop culture references, topical humor, and plenty of in-the-moment improv, it’s got classic Troubie written all over it. Oh, and did I mention there’s a dog? That can only mean that this time they’ve taken Shakespeare’s earliest comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a play that already contains an abundance of the absurd, and thrown it in the pot with Chicago’s classic hits of the ‘70s and ‘80s, complete with wah wah pedal and brass section. And what a mix it makes. In balancing its many parts, it’s hard to say who or what steals the show more often.  More

The Troubies are Back with Two Gentlemen of Chicago

If you’ve never seen a Troubie show, here’s your chance to get in on the fun! Their latest creation is Two Gentlemen of Chicago, directed by Matt Walker for the Falcon Theatre. The Ovation Award-winning theater company is putting their signature spin on Shakespeare’s rockin’ romantic comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona and mixing it up with music of Chicago. 

When friends Proteus and Valentine give up another Saturday in the Park and head to the big city of Milan, Proteus’ love Julia protests with, “If You Leave Me Now who will Colour My World?” Proteus proclaims, “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love but I’m A Man and must go!” Meanwhile in Milan, the sour-on-love Valentine finds new Beginnings when he encounters the lovely Silvia. But when Proteus meets Silvia, he falls for her as well, and his beloved Julia is NOT such a Hard Habit to Break. Mayhem ensues when both men tell Silvia, “You’re the Inspiration”. This is a Once in a Lifetime chance and the Troubies are Wishing You Were Here!

The show begins previews March 14 and will open Friday, March 23 at 8pm and continue through Sunday, April 22. Tickets go on sale February 22 and can be purchased online at  www.FalconTheatre.com or by calling  818- 955-8101. Long live the Troubies!

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