Hunt to Lead MUCH ADO at Kirk Theatre, 12/1-12/19; Donenberg Directs
Since 1985, The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has been a vibrant hub of unique programs and events designed to make Shakespeare accessible and engaging in Los Angeles. At last April's annual "Simply Shakespeare" fundraiser, Helen Hunt read the role of Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing."
She loved doing it so much that she was quickly in discussions to do the role in a full production with Shakespeare Center's Founder and Executive Artistic Director Ben Donenberg, who was wanting something special to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Shakespeare Center.
This production of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," which performs at the Kirk Douglas Theatre for 23 performances only from December 1 to 19, will be the first full-scale, indoor production presented by the Shakespeare Center (the press opening is December 12). Mr. Donenberg directs, and the production will feature music by Lyle Lovett.
The performing company of 17 actors and musicians will include Chris Butler, Ramon De Ocampo, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Grace Gummer, Helen Hunt, Tom Irwin, Brian Joseph, Greta Jung, Geoffrey Lower, Anthony Manough, Dakin Matthews, Stephen Root, Jared Sakren, FrEd Sanders, David Ogden Stiers, Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins. The choreographer is Julie Arenal. The set design is by Douglas Rogers, with lighting design by Trevor Norton, costume design by Holly Poe Durbin, and sound design by Adam Phalen.
When Donenberg went into the community to put this production of "Much Ado About Nothing" together, Center Theatre Group made a special arrangement for The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles to bring their first traditional proscenium production to one of city's premiere theatrical venues, the intimate 317 seat Kirk Douglas Theatre.
Tickets for Much Ado About Nothing ($35 to $70, premium tickets also available) go on sale Tuesday, October 26 by phone at 213-628-2772, and online at CenterTheatreGroup.org/MuchAdo. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Center Theatre Group box office (at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles) or at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office two hours prior to performances.
Director Ben Donenberg has set this production of "Much Ado About Nothing" on a fairy tale California vineyard. Donenberg said, "We are thrilled about Helen Hunt and Tom Irwin playing Beatrice and Benedick - they are both picture perfect to play these parts because they can so beautifully explore how two people with a rocky unresolved past can drop their defenses and pretenses, rediscover each other, and find a new way to love."
"They are a part of a stellar company of American actors that includes David Ogden Stiers, who appeared frequently in Shakespeare early in his distinguished career, Dakin Matthews one of our leading Shakespearian actors, Stephen Root who began his career touring the United States with National Shakespeare Company, and Sara and Sean Watkins, who are known for their incredible music and most recent appearances with Garrison Keillor on the NPR ‘A Prairie Home Companion.'
And finally, we think that Lyle Lovett's music will underscore the play exactly the same way the popular music Shakespeare selected to use way back when - and if you like a good grape stomping or know Lyle's song ‘She's No Lady, She's My Wife,' you can get a feeling for the fun we're going to have with one of Shakespeare's most unlikely weddings."
"Much Ado About Nothing" is made possible in part by support from The National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and The James Irvine Foundation.
Since 1985, The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has been a cherished community resource committed to making Shakespeare accessible, relevant and enriching for students, educators, artists and audiences from all walks of life.
Ben Donenberg, one of the city's greatest proponents of Shakespeare, started the Shakespeare Center with a free production of "Twelfth Night" in Pershing Square and since then has provided performances of Shakespeare, along with outreach programs such as Will Power to Youth, which provides hands-on artistic experience with paid job training and arts education for at risk youth. The program has been so successful that it has been replicated in communities around the country.
Well known for its LA-centric approach to Shakespeare, past Shakespeare Center production highlights include "A Midsummer Night's Dream" featuring jazz standards set in 1920's along Central Avenue, a 1990's "Julius Caesar" on the Steps of City Hall, "Twelfth Night" on Venice Beach, "As You Like It" featuring Peter Seeger's music imagined in Yosemite National Park, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" featuring Beatles music in a suburban 1970's San Fernando Valley, and most recently a contemporary "The Taming of Shrew" at a time-share, featuring music by contemporary Los Angeles composers. Throughout its 25 year history, the Shakespeare Center presents Shakespeare that reflects the landscape, history and people of Los Angeles, rendering interpretations that are artistically, financially, geographically, and physically accessible to all.
Now in its 17th year, Will Power to Youth (WPY) is the highly acclaimed youth development program at The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. WPY combines academics, human relations, job training and art to create a unique summer employment opportunity for youth aged 14-19.
WPY has also been nationally recognized by the National Endowment of the Arts, First Lady Laura Bush, and The U.S. Department of Justice for its effectiveness at addressing unemployment, youth violence and high-school drop out rates. In 2008, WPY was selected as one of ten arts programs for inclusion in the groundbreaking report The Qualities of Quality: Excellence in Arts Education and How to Achieve It released by Harvard's Project Zero . In 2005, The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles was selected by Bush as a destination point on her "Helping America's Youth" tour. The tour highlighted model youth programs that made a significant difference in the lives of young people. Subsequently, SCLA's Will Power to Youth program was invited to participate in the White House Conference for Helping America's Youth, as the Featured Lunchtime Presenter.
SCLA is piloting a new Will Power-style arts-based workforce re-entry program aimed at United States Veterans. The four US Veterans in this initiatory group hail from New Directions, a services organization based at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration. As part of our Veteran's Will Power, the 3 men and 1 woman have been enrolled in stagecraft classes at El Camino College and will work as interns on "Much Ado About Nothing."
Ben Donenberg has performed as an actor on and off Broadway, in Central Park at the New York Shakespeare Festival's Delacorte Theater, on television and in film. He annually directs "Simply Shakespeare," a star-studded staged reading, hosted by Board Member Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, which benefits The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles.
In 2006, the United States Senate unanimously approved his Presidential appointment to a six-year term as a Member of the National Council on the Arts, overseeing the work of the National Endowment for the Arts. Donenberg is also featured in the National Endowments' award-winning inspirational documentary "Why Shakespeare?" which was distributed to more than 40,000 high schools throughout the country.
He has served as a National Juror for the Coming Up Taller Awards, under the auspices of The President's Committee for the Arts and the Humanities, a volunteer on the National Endowment for the Arts Theater Grant Panel and the Los Angeles County Performing Arts Commission's Theater Grant Panel. Mr. Donenberg holds a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from the University of Southern California and is a graduate of The Juilliard School's Drama Division.