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2018 August 19

Santa Cruz Shakespeare 2018

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I have now seen all of the Santa Cruz Shakespeare productions for 2018, except the intern’s show Men I’m Not Married To, which starts on Wed 22 August.  There are four performances left of Love’s Labours Lost, Romeo and Juliet, and Venus in Fur, plus the three performances of the intern’s show.

Santa Cruz Shakespeare Venus in Fur 2018
Photo by Shmuel Thaler (from https://www.santacruzshakespeare.org/about/media-room/ )

All the performances are worth seeing, but Venus in Fur is definitely the highlight of the season—it is the play that the set was designed around (the set doesn’t really work for the Shakespearean plays), it has the best lighting and sound effects, and it showcases the talents of two very strong actors.  Brian Ibsen’s interpretation of Thomas in Venus in Fur is outstanding,  which I had not expected from his rather lackluster performance as Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost.  Even more impressive is María Gabriella Rosado González’s performance as Vanda, switching seamlessly between three different characters: actress, Victorian woman, and goddess.  The only thing that marred the production was the miking of the actors—occasionally the amplification failed.  It might have been better not to mike them at all (I might not have felt that way if I had been seated further back—audibility of some actors can be a problem in outdoor theater).

I reviewed Love’s Labours Lost earlier, when I saw the first preview—I’ll see it again at the end of the run, when it may have improved a bit.

The Romeo and Juliet is a fairly straightforward, traditional interpretation of the play, despite changing the genders of Benvolio and Tybalt to meet SCS’s goal of having gender balance in their cast.  SCS will be ending the season this year with a number of matinees of Romeo and Juliet for local high-school students—probably the best choice for educational purposes.

In addition to the full productions, SCS also did two free staged readings this year The Doll’s House and The Taming.  The reading of The Doll’s House was very polished for a staged reading and was well worth attending.  I had mixed feelings about The Taming: the play was funny, but some of the lines were rushed and the actresses sometimes difficult to hear.  It was worth going, but was clearly not as rehearsed as The Doll’s House. The Taming is also a play with a fairly short half-life, being full of topical references and slang—if they plan to do a full production of it, they’ll have to do it in the next couple of years.

 

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2018 July 18

Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost

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Last week my wife, my mother-in-law, and I went to see the first preview of Love’s Labour’s Lost performed by Santa Cruz Shakespeare in Delaveaga Park.  The play has a simple, rather obvious plot, but there is a lot of fun wordplay (much of which is lost on modern audiences, even with a good dramaturg and director).  I suspect that SCS chose the play partly for the ease of understanding, but also because the near gender balance of the play makes their policy of gender-balanced casting easier.

Only four parts are cast cross-gender: Moth, Boyet, Holofernes, and the messenger Marcadé).  Moth is supposed to be young enough that gender is really irrelevant, Holofernes works perfectly well as a schoolmarm rather than a schoolmaster, and the messenger Marcadé is just a messenger, whose gender doesn’t matter.  That leaves Boyet, who is normally a lord attending the French princess and is often played as an older, gay man.  Converting the part to that of a middle-aged woman works well enough, except for one exit, when Boyet is sent to the King’s court, where no women are allowed.

SCS’s performance is worth seeing, but not stellar.  I found the performances by Tommy Gomez (as Don Adriano de Armado) and Kailey Azure Green (as his page Moth) to be the best—Don Adriano comes across more 3-dimensional than the part is usually played without losing any of the humor, and Kailey captured the essence of Moth well.

Usually Berowne’s part is the best one, but I did not find Brian Ibsen to be a convincing Berowne.  He rushed the speeches a bit and did not seem really to get into the part (he also may be a bit old for the part—he should be the quintessential fratboy, not obviously 10–15 years older than the other lords).  I suspect that he’ll do better as Thomas in Venus in Fur.

The four ladies of France, with Boyet barely visible in back. Photo from https://www.santacruzshakespeare.org/about/media-room/

The costuming was good (1916?), but the set was rather dull. Perhaps it will look better when it is lighted at night (the first preview is a matinée).  I’ll get another chance to see the performance in the evening with the lighting near the end of the run—perhaps I’ll change my mind about the set then.

 

2018 June 13

Romeo and Juliet

This year seems to be the time for Romeo and Juliet.  UCSC Shakes-to-go did it as their touring production to the local schools—I did not get to see that production this year, but my wife did.

UCSB’s Shakespeare in the Park class (THTR 194A) did it as their production, which I saw twice.  My son was in it, playing the role of Tybalt.  I took still photos of the Saturday production and video of the Sunday production.  I’ve not had time to select, crop, color-correct, and reduce resolution on the still photos yet, but my son processed the video and we put it up on Youtube:

There was a camera glitch at the end of the party scene, and I did not record a minute or two of the play while rebooting the camera.

Futuristic Lights provided the gloving lights for the party scene (donated to the cast) and loaned lights used for indicating the life of the actors (a rather futuristic way to handle the fight scenes that may not have been clear to the audience).  Many of the roles are cast cross-gender (a necessity with only 3 female roles and many actresses), including the part of Lady Capulet, played by a male actor.

Later this summer we’ll be seeing Santa Cruz Shakespeare doing Romeo and Juliet with professional actors, which will probably be the best production.

2018 May 3

Season theater tickets purchased for 2018

In the past week, I have bought my season tickets for both Santa Cruz Shakespeare and Jewel Theatre. For both, we ended up buying three subscriptions—for my wife, my son, and me, although there is one of the Jewel Theatre performances that my son will not be in town for.

The SCS tickets are only available to “members” at the moment, but go on sale to the general public on May 15 (but for $50 you can become a member right away).  By buying tickets on the first day that sales opened to members, we managed to get ideal seating. We are going to everything:

  • Love’s Labours Lost
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Venus in Fur
  • Men I’m Not Married To (the interns’ production)
  • Doll’s House (staged reading—free)
  • The Taming (staged reading—free)

In fact, we’re going to Love’s Labours Lost twice, because my mother-in-law will be in town during the previews, when our son can’t go, so we’ll go with her to the preview and with our son to a showing later in the season.

Similarly, the Jewel Theatre tickets are only available to subscribers (they haven’t even posted the new season on their website yet), but you can become a new subscriber at no cost (other than tickets).  We are only going to 4 of the 5 shows, because we see no point to going to their musical.  (I don’t like musicals in general, and my wife likes some musicals, but not this year’s.)  We’re also not bothering with their non-subscription holiday show—again it is a musical we have no interest in. The shows we are seeing are

  • The Beauty Queen of Leenane
  • Red Velvet
  • Breaking the Code
  • The Explorers Club

The Jewel Theatre plays look like an interesting season, though I’m a bit worried about Julie James having cast herself as the lead in the first one—she has a habit of casting herself in parts intended for much younger actresses, and she is almost old enough to be playing the mother rather than the daughter in this play.  Still, it is less of a stretch than some of the roles she has tried to pull off in previous years.

We bought subscriptions to Actors’ Theatre at the beginning of the year, since they start selling in January.  We still have two plays to go in that subscription:

  • The Realistic Jones
  • Red

This weekend, we are going to a non-subscription theater event: WEST Ensemble Players’ production of Antigone. WEST Ensemble Players are the grade 10–12 invitation-only troupe for WEST Performing Arts, and they are usually pretty good.  We enjoyed the performance of She Kills Monsters that they did in February.

2017 December 10

2018 Santa Cruz Shakespeare season

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Last Thursday, Santa Cruz Shakespeare announced their summer 2018 season to donors at a season-announcement party—they’ll be doing a public announcement later this week.  For readers of my blog, here is the line-up, slightly in advance of the public announcement:

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Love’s Labours Lost
  • Venus in Fur (by David Ives)

The fringe play has not been selected yet (or, at any rate, not finalized).

The theme is apparently love and sex, with the non-Shakespearean play selected to appeal to modern adult audiences (as well as being a two-hander, to keep down production costs).

Santa Cruz Shakespeare is also starting a new educational program.  The Romeo and Juliet production will stay an extra week at the end of the summer season, giving morning performances for high school groups from Santa Cruz County.  I think they said that they plan to offer the show free to Title 1 schools and for about $10 to other schools. I believe that they are looking for donations (or more grants) to lower the cost of tickets further or provide scholarships for students who can’t afford even the reduced price.  They don’t have this new program on their education page yet, so I can’t give any details.

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