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Independent Shakespeare Co. to Kick Off Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival with TWELFTH NIGHT, 6/26

This summer, Shakespeare's delightful and romantic comedy is given a Downton Abbey-twist with elegant and sumptuous costumes and the ringing sounds of the early twentieth-century music hall as Independent Shakespeare Co. presents Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT or What You Will, directed by Independent Shakespeare Co.'s Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma.

TWELFTH NIGHT or What You Will will begin previews at THE GRIFFITH PARK FREE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL on Thursday, June 26 at 7pm and will open on Saturday, July 5 at 7:00pm and perform through Sunday, August 31 at Old Zoo in Griffith Park. All ISC Summer Shakespeare productions are FREE to the public! TWELFTH NIGHT or What You Will will play in repertory with THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

Count Orsino is madly in love with the grieving Countess Olivia, who has sworn off society for seven years. As Orsino ignores affairs of state in favor of affairs of the heart, Olivia leaves her power in the hands of her fun-despising steward, Malvolio. Into this upside down world lands the unsinkable Viola. Disguised as a boy and longing for her lost brother she also falls prey to the heady scent of Illyria. Adding mayhem to the mix are a drunken uncle, a besotted knight, and a fool who may be the only sane resident of this beguiling place.

Comments Independent Shakespeare Co.'s Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma, "Twelfth Night is a perfect comedy for a summer night. It's blend of high and low humor and music, and will play perfectly in Griffith Park. We're setting it in a Downton Abbey-like world, with clear distinctions between the upstairs and downstairs parts of the household. As the night goes on, masters and servants get more intertwined, feelings get more complicated, and the play spills out into the audience. The production features both Shakespeare's songs and original music as well as music-hall standards."


MELISSA CHALSMA (Director) is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Independent Shakespeare Co. (ISC). Under her and co-founder David Melville's leadership, the company created the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival, which has grown into the largest theater event of its kind in Los Angeles. In 2009, ISC received the Hollywood Arts Council's Theatre Arts Charlie Award. She directs and acts in many ISC productions. ISC roles include Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Rosalind in As You Like It, Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream (as well as directing), Hermione in The Winter's Tale and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. As director: Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, Hamlet, The Comedy of Errors, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Two Gentleman of Verona. She has performed in theaters across the country, on Broadway (including the American premiere of Harold Pinter's Moonlight with Jason Robards, Blythe Danner, and Liev Schreiber), and in the UK.

In her ten years as a college faculty member she taught at Moorpark College, Pepperdine University, and California State University, Northridge. Drawing on her experience as an educator, she has guided the company in the development of educational programming for schools, as well as workshops directed toward families that take place before performances in Griffith Park. She works on both curriculum, and has written and developed several performances combining Shakespeare scenes and narrative that have been performed for school-age audiences.

The cast of TWELFTH NIGHT will feature: Julia Aks, Matt Callahan, Danny Campbell, Amari Cheatom, Joseph Culliton, Thomas Ehas, Luis Galindo, Andres Maldonado, André Martin, David Melville, Nikhil Pai, Bernadette Sullivan, Kalean Ung and Claudia de Vasco.

Season Production Design is by Caitlin Lainoff. Season Lighting Design is by Bosco Flanagan. Composer is David Melville. Costume Design is by Garry Lennon.

TWELFTH NIGHT will preview on Thursday, June 26 at 7:00pm and will open on Saturday, July 5 at 7:00pm and perform through Sunday, August 31 at the Old Zoo in Griffith Park. All ISC Summer Shakespeare productions are FREE to the public. For more information, call (818) 710-6306 or online at

INDEPENDENT SHAKESPEARE CO. (ISC) was founded in 1998. We have been producing accessible, imaginative performances of classical plays since that time. Our first performances were located on the Lower East Side of New York City. The stripped down production style of our early productions enabled us to travel easily and we quickly found ourselves touring Europe, ending with an invitation to perform our production of Macbeth for four weeks at The King's Head Theatre in London. In 2001 we relocated to Los Angeles and -- with the support of the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of Cultural Affairs -- founded Free Shakespeare in Barnsdall Park, in 2004. Because of audience demand, in 2010 we moved to the significantly larger venue at the Old Zoo and re-christened the summer season the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival. 2014 is our 10th anniversary of performing free Shakespeare in Los Angeles City parks. The growth in attendance is extraordinary: our first season played to fewer than 1,000 people; by 2013 over 43,000 people came to Griffith Park for 40 nights of free classical theater productions. In 2012, we expanded our offerings with our indoor performance space, Independent Co. Studio where we present original work, re-imagined stagings of classics, readings and classes.

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