Shakespeare by the Sea Announces Thrilling 20th Anniversary Season
"Shakespeare by the Sea is excited to be celebrating 20 years," says Founder and Producing Artistic Director Lisa Coffi. "Through our performances, we seek to explore the truth of the human spirit through Shakespeare's texts, affording an unparalleled emotional and intellectual encounter for audiences and artists alike. Throughout our history, we have been able to provide admission-free productions in public venues, enabling us to reach a broad audience."
"Shakespeare by the Sea annually produces two plays that run in rep throughout Southern California," says Associate Artistic Director Suzanne Dean. "Most of the extraordinary artists who work with us each summer are involved in both shows, and watching their commitment and dedication to the festival never fails to inspire us."
Macbeth will be helmed by Ovation Award-winner, Stephanie A. Coltrin (returning for her 8th consecutive year), and The Taming of the Shrew will be directed by SBTS veteran award-winning actor and director Cylan Brown (returning for his 2nd year as a director, having previously performed in the festival for six years running). Lisa Coffi says, "We are thrilled with the caliber of actors who dedicate their summer to SBTS. This year we have a combination of returning actors, as well as terrific new talent and we are looking forward to working with all of them." The roles in these two plays will be performed by B.J. Allman (Macduff/Petruchio-10th season), varda appleton (Witch/Lady Macduff-1st season), Chris Nelson (Duncan-8th season), Melissa Booey (Lady Macbeth-2nd season), Fabian Cook, Jr. (Lord-1st season), Iyan Evans (Lucentio-2nd season), Ethan Haslam (Malcolm/Gremio-1st season), Morgan Hill (Witch/Kate-1st season), Andy Kallok (Porter/Baptista-13th season), Ryan Knight (Hortensio-5th season), Jacqueline Misaye (Young Macduff/Bianca-1st season), Greg Prusiewicz (Ross-4th season), Keila Ryan (Witch/Widow-1st season), Trevor Scott (Biondello-1st season), Olivia Schlueter-Corey (Banquo/Tranio-4th season), Daniel Student (Vicentio-1st season), Jessica Winward (Lennox-2nd season), and Patrick Vest (Macbeth/Gremio-11th season).
Creating the world of these two plays are resident set designer Aaron Jackson (13th season) and Ovation Award-winning Costume Designer Allison Dillard (2nd season). Fight Choreography will be created by the multi-hyphenate award winner Patrick Vest. The Tour Manager is Sara Haddadin (2nd season), Stage Managers are Caroline Benzon (16th season) and ELena Cruz (1st season).
ABOUT THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
When rebellious Katherina stands in the way of her younger sister Bianca's marriage, fortune hunter Petruchio is enlisted to "tame" the elder daughter, freeing a path for Bianca's motley suiters. From their first meeting, sparks fly and the ultimate battle of the sexes ensues - leaving us to wonder, who is taming who?
Director Cylan Brown is no stranger to this play, "Having acted in and seen The Taming of the Shrew many times, I am thrilled to be working on it once again. With all of the wild characters and zany clowns, it really is a romp of a comedy and a play that keeps on giving. I know that we will have a lot of fun exploring this rollicking show." He adds, "At the heart of this play you have a blossoming love between two impossible people, and something about that is really quite beautiful to me. In many ways, Macbeth and Shrew are great plays to run in rep as they both explore two powerful couples. In the Scottish play, we see what happens when love moves from a place of purity to a place of corruption. In Shrew we get to observe the opposite, love growing out of antagonism and spite."
"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." Seduced by supernatural prophecy, Macbeth and his Lady embark on an ambitious quest to win the Scottish Throne. In the aftermath of their success, we glimpse a world torn apart when a volatile, paranoid tyrant becomes King.
"These plays were selected for our 20th Anniversary Season not just because they are fan favorites, but also because, like many of Shakespeare's plays, these two plays remain relevant and resonate for all of us in this moment in time," says Coltrin. "Macbeth is a play I have loved since I had a life-changing experience seeing it at age thirteen. I remember not understanding the politics, but understanding the tragedy of the events as they unfolded. Since I began directing Shakespeare, I have been yearning to dive into this play - to explore this world psychologically and politically."
REFLECTING ON THE INCEPTION OF THE IDEA AND THE FESTIVAL HISTORY
The festival is the brainchild of Lisa Coffi, who created it as her Master's Thesis while a student at Cal State Long Beach. She produced an outdoor production of Comedy of Errors that ran for nine performances, and played to about 3000 people. Remembering that first summer, Lisa says, "After I completed my thesis, I found that I had created something that people loved, and they started asking me what play I was going to present the following year! I am tickled pink to know that I planted the seed of something that would become a beloved tradition for audiences and for actors." After making the decision to continue the festival, Lisa also set out to expand it. The festival grew in size year by year, and what started as a small production grew to two productions. "Quickly, I realized the positive experience being created in the community, and that I had a passion for expanding the reach of the festival throughout Southern California," says Coffi.
Associate Festival Producer and Macbeth director Stephanie Coltrin adds, "What Lisa has created here is something unlike anything I have ever experienced. The sheer joy created by this festival across multiple levels of experience never fails to amaze me. It has become something I spend the entire year looking forward to, and I know I am not alone in that feeling." Continues Coltrin, "I have spent the last eight years involved in this festival, and have seen first-hand the incredible experience of the audience interacting with the works of the greatest playwright who ever lived, and then spending time with the actors, opening a dialogue between artists and audience that I find both unique and profoundly moving."
"I didn't know back in 1998 what I was getting myself into," laughs Coffi. "The festival has grown beyond my wildest expectations. Starting with playing to a few hundred people, to performing to upwards of twenty thousand people each summer is not anything I could have foreseen. I am so grateful for this festival and for everyone who consistently work above and beyond the call of duty every year to make the festival what it has become. That includes the staff, the Board, the donors, the artists and the audiences who keep us going year after year. Putting up a festival of this size is no small task. Twenty years has flown by, and I have loved every moment."
Suzanne Dean, who has been with Shakespeare by the Sea for 18 years, says "It's an honor to be part of something that means so much to so many people in the region. I love how we not only introduce Shakespeare to new audiences, but we also provide an opportunity for people to discover new parks throughout LA and Orange County. Audiences will attend in Point Fermin Park because it is our home base for 4 weeks, but also follow us on tour to other neighborhoods - Seal Beach, or Torrance, Beverly Hills, or South Pasadena. They have an excuse to go visit friends and family in other areas and enjoy some summer theatre together!"
"It's a lot of work," says Coltrin. "But I wouldn't trade it for anything."
IT'S QUITE AN EXPERIENCE
"It's quite an experience," says Dean. "We say that a lot, but those words don't quite encompass what we mean. For the artists, they spend fourteen weeks exploring the words of these great plays in unusual settings. And on top of that, the actors serve as our crew, putting up the set, lights and sound equipment and loading and unloading a truck every night."
Veteran actor Patrick Vest, who returns this year reprising his role of Macbeth, playing Gremio, and creating the fight choreography, says he delights in the experience each year. "It's such a visceral experience - performing these great plays for huge audiences at venues that range in scope from huge parks with 1500 people in the house to small pocket parks with only a couple of hundred people keeps us on our toes, keep us breathing life into these roles every night. It's truly the way Shakespeare's actors did it - we roll into town, we put up our show, and later that night, we are gone. But the feelings of each night remain and become part of the fabric of who we are."
Concludes Coffi, "It's an experience that we share not just with each other, but with our audiences. To watch them truly be engaged in the fictional world of the plays and then watch the artists and audiences mix and mingle every night is truly thrilling."
MORE ABOUT SHAKESPEARE BY THE SEA
Founded in 1998, and funded entirely by donations and grants, Shakespeare by the Sea brings contemporary and classic works to underserved, culturally diverse audiences in order to ignite imagination, promote literacy, and encourage artistic expression. This season's performances are made possible through the support of the LA County Arts Commission, Orange County Community Foundation, LA County 4th District Supervisor Janice Hahn, Malaga Bank, and multiple City Tour Sponsors. The San Pedro performances are made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs. More sponsors will be needed to complete the funding to produce this season's offerings.
Audiences all over Southern California have come to love Shakespeare by the Sea for its high value productions of Shakespeare's plays, presented free of admission in dozens of local parks each summer. This year, the company will deliver 40 performances, beginning and ending with its hometown crowd at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro. The tour has become a much-anticipated event each summer, drawing an audience of more than 20,000 each of the past several years, to enjoy Shakespeare under the summer sky.