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Renaissance Theaterworks Presents James DeVita's IN ACTING SHAKESPEARE, Closes 4/17


Renaissance Theaterworks (RTW) closes it 2010-11 mainstage season with IN ACTING SHAKESPEARE written and performed by James DeVita. Close April 17, 2011 at the Studio Theatre, 158 N. Broadway, tickets can be purchased for $34 in person at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office, by telephone at (414) 291-7800, or online at Tickets are on sale now.

About IN ACTING SHAKESPEARE by Playwright James DeVita (From
QUERY: "Dear Sir: I have an interest in adapting Sir Ian McKellen's script Acting Shakespeare for performance. Might the rights be available? Respectfully, James D."

REPLY: "James, Ian McKellen is happy for you to perform your version of Acting Shakespeare. All best wishes. Louise H., Secretary to Sir Ian McKellen. Dec. 2006"

In Acting Shakespeare began with the above correspondence regarding Sir Ian McKellen's one-man show, Acting Shakespeare, an amalgam of personal reminiscences, theatrical lore and selections from Shakespeare. I had very little expectation of an actual reply, so I was thrilled when I received Mr. McKellen's blessing to move forward with the idea.

The original concept for the adaptation was to re-create McKellen's show (which I had seen him perform in 1983), as well as pay tribute to him and his work. This idea, however, was short-lived. Performing another actor's one-man show proved detached and impersonal - a clever trick rather than a play. After the third draft, I abandoned the idea. What followed was a complete re-imagining, two years of research and revisions, and eleven more drafts.

I began by replacing the Shakespeare selections with ones which spoke deeply to me, expanding on the theme of Shakespeare's childhood, and incorporating contemporaries who had actually known him or had worked with him.

Still, with each new draft, the director, John Langs, kept encouraging me to push myself to make the play more personal, and not hide behind the mask of McKellen's play. I began to substitute more of my own personal experiences in acting Shakespeare for those of McKellen's, and that was when the story became its own play.

Some of Mr. McKellen's structure and wonderful writings remain, but what rose to the surface with each succeeding draft was less and less a re-creation of the original show, and more a story about one person's journey towards meeting Shakespeare and discovering the beauty of words - and their potential - which began one night twenty-five years ago when I watched, with more than a little awe, Sir Ian McKellen in Acting Shakespeare.

James DeVita's Bio
James DeVita has been an accomplished actor in the American Theater for more than 25 years. His work in classical theatre includes Iago, Macbeth, Richard III, Benedick, Richard II, Romeo and Hamlet. In addition to his many accomplishments in the theater, Mr. DeVita is also an award-winning author and playwright. Currently he is the resident playwright for First Stage Children's Theater in Milwaukee and has written or adapted 19 plays for young adults and children. He has also published two novels, The Silenced and Blue with HarperCollins Publishing. Awards include National Endowment for the Arts: Literature Fellowship for Fiction, the AATE 2007 Chorpenning Award, The Distinguished Play award from The American Alliance of Theater and Education and The Intellectual Freedom Award: Kentucky Council of Teachers of English/Language Art. Theatrical awards include the Denver Critics Circle Award for Best Season for an Actor. Mr. DeVita received his education at the Suffolk County Community College Theater Program (Selden, NY) and the Professional Theater Training Program (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee). He has also worked as a gas station attendant, a factory worker, a fisherman, a caterer, a cook, and has been a volunteer EMT for the past ten years.

Director's Bio
John Langs (Original Director) John Langs has directed for American Players Theatre for four seasons having directed All's well that Ends Well, In Acting Shakespeare, Long Days Journey Into Night, Misalliance and Ah Wilderness!. From his home in California, John's freelance career has afforded him the opportunity to work with many great artists at numerous companies across the country. He has directed productions at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the Lookingglass Theater Company in Chicago, Circle X in Los Angeles, Ensemble Studio Theater in New York, The Resident Ensemble Players in Delaware, The New Century Theatre Company of Seattle, Washington, Ensemble Theater of Seattle and The Seattle Shakespeare Company where he is an Associate Artist. John received his directing degree from the North Carolina School of the Arts where he returns periodically to prepare a new crop of actors for a career in the theater. For the past 10 years, he has enjoyed directing a wide variety of productions. Some of his favorites include King Lear (Seattle Footlight Award for Best Production of the Year), The Shaggs Philosophy of the World (Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle Award for Best Original Musical, Backstage Garland Award for Best Direction) Brother Karamazov (seven LADCC Awards including Best Production of the year and Best Direction).

Renaissance Production Team
Julie Swenson (Producer), Brandy Kline (Stage Manager), Jason Fassl (Scenic and Lighting Design), Fitz Patton (Sound Design).

Original Production Team (whose designs will be used in RTW's production)
American Players Theatre (Producer), John Langs (Director), Nate Stuber (Scenic and Prop Design), Holly Payne (Costume Design), Fitz Patton (Sound Design). Tickets to IN ACTING SHAKESPEARE are $34 for all performances.

Tickets are available through The Broadway Theatre Center box office by calling (414) 291-7800 or online at All performances are at The Studio Theatre, 158 N. Broadway. Monday, March 28, 2011 will be the Pay-What-You-Can performance at 7:30 p.m. (Tickets for the March 28 performance will be available at the door at 6:30 p.m. No phone-in orders or advanced sales will be accepted for the Pay-What-You-Can performance.)

Season Sponsors: Time Warner Cable, Wisconsin Arts Board, UPAF

The mission of Renaissance Theaterworks is to create moving theater that awakens our recognition of what it is to be human - from classics to world premieres - with attention to women's roles onstage and off. Founded in 1993, Renaissance Theaterworks is, presently, Milwaukee's only women-founded and women-run theatre company. Renaissance Theaterworks is a member of Theater Wisconsin and the Third Ward Arts District. Renaissance Theaterworks receives support from the Wisconsin Arts Board, Milwaukee Arts Board, CAMPAC, United Performing Arts Fund, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, private donors and foundations.


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