Tessa Thompson to Star in AS YOU LIKE IT in a Japanese Garden - Set for July 10-29


The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA), under the artistic direction of Ben Donenberg, returns after 16 years to The Japanese Garden on the grounds of the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center Campus with a summer production of William Shakespeare's romantic comedy AS YOU LIKE IT directed by Royal Shakespeare Company artist Kenn Sabberton – July 10 to 29.

The cast is led by Tessa Thompson as Rosalind; she is known for roles on "Veronica Mars," "Grey's Anatomy," "Heroes" and upcoming BBC America "Copper," as well as Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" and Cordelia in "King Lear" here in Los Angeles. Peter Cambor, who played Nate Getz on "NCIS: Los Angeles" plays Orlando; Michael Dorn, well known as the Klingon Lt. Commander Worf from "Star Trek," plays both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior; Diane Venora, who played Hamlet for the New York Shakespeare Festival, as Jacques; John Lavelle, who played Ben in "The Graduate" on Broadway, as Touchstone; and veteran Los Angeles stage actor Tony Abatemarco as Adam and Corin. The cast also features Jantzen Baldeck, McKinley Belcher, Shann Dornhecker, Brian Joseph, Amy Judd Lieberman, Gabriella Rhodeen, Andrew Schwartz, and Lindsay Rae Taylor.

Ben Donenberg, Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Center said, "We are returning to the VA grounds to present Shakespeare – this time at the Japanese Garden, one of the loveliest outdoor venues on the West Side. Here we have a chance to enjoy one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, with a great company of wonderful Los Angeles Shakespearean actors, led by a 10-year veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, complete with live music – an important part of our productions – on a lovely mid-summer evening, with al fresco dining. Additionally this allows us to continue working with Veterans, who will serve as valued members of our backstage and front of house team. Two veterans will also be part of the performing company, and we are making complimentary tickets available to active military personnel and veterans."

The production features original music by Brian Joseph, who wrote original music for the Shakespeare Center's 2010 production of "Much Ado About Nothing," featuring Lyle Lovett and Helen Hunt. The scenery is by Gary Wissmann, costumes by Holly Poe Durbin, and the lighting by Trevor Norton.

Director Kenn Sabberton has set the play in present day Los Angeles, where Shakespeare's court is likened to the corridors of governmental and corporate power and financial influence, and where the events of the day have brought about a sorry and sour state of affairs, stemming from family strife and political maneuverings among the characters.

Since this is Shakespeare, after all, the characters repair to the forest. The Forest of Arden has become the local rural orange groves, adjacent farmland, and Angeles Crest Forest campgrounds where the characters gather to sing, dance, fall in love, and discuss what is truly important for their own health and the health of mankind – as many Angelinos who regularly enjoy the natural settings that are easily accessible to all who live here. "In Shakespeare, as in life, there is a restorative power of nature and in art, creating music, dance and song, as a healing force," said Sabberton. "It is the transformative Shakespearean experience that an audience can enjoy – as audiences have for hundreds of years – under the moon and the stars."

This production brings the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles back to the VA grounds for the first time since 1992. The VA location speaks to many long-time themes of the Shakespeare Center – including presenting Shakespeare in a relevant way through settings that speak to present-day Angelenos, working with veterans, and using theatre as a tool for personal and community transformation.

Kenn Sabberton, who directed the 2009 outdoor production of "As You Like It" on the plaza of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, has been an actor, director and teacher for over thirty years. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for ten years, working in London, Stratford-Upon-Avon and New York. While there, Sabberton was heavily involved with the education department's school programming, and directed shows for the RSC fringe for which he served as Artistic Director.

Sabberton went on to work in London at the Royal National Theatre, followed by the Aquila Theatre Company in New York and the NYU Center for Ancient Studies, where he was responsible for studying, lecturing and researching Shakespeare. During his time with Aquila Theatre Company and the NYU Center for Ancient Studies, Sabberton worked on many Shakespeare productions and was named an associate artist.

Most recently, he directed shows in London, which have toured around the United States and played off Broadway. Currently, Sabberton is touring in a production of Bill Naughton's Alfie, directed by Oliver Award winning director David Thacker. Sabberton is a registered fight director and a registered foster carer, CRB certified to work with Young People. He has taught in many drama schools and has run a number of summer acting schools for children with disabilities.

Veterans Summer Employment is supported by VA West Los Angeles Healthcare System, Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Capital Group, Herb Alpert Foundation, Century Housing and the PenFed Foundation. "As You Like It" is made possible in part by the Members of The Shakespeare Guild, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation.

The Japanese Garden on the grounds of the West Los Angeles VA is at 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90073 (adjacent to the Brentwood Theatre). Tickets for "As You Like It" are available online at shakespearecenter.org. For information about the ticket program for active military and veterans, please call SCLA at 213-481-2273.

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