San Diego Theater Feature: THE OLD GLOBE 2012 SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL (Lowell Davies Festival Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on July 6, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional

ALL THE WORLD’S A GLOBE

After previewing in the month of June, The Old Globe officially opens the 2012 Shakespeare Festival this week. Adrian Noble returns for his third season as the internationally renowned festival’s Artistic Director, taking the helm on both Inherit the Wind and As You Like It, while British director Lindsay Posner makes his debut at the Globe with his production of Richard III. The plays will be performed in repertory through September in the outdoor 605-seat Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. For those coming from out-of-town, the schedule allows for 3 Plays in 3 Days beginning July 12.

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Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalAccording to playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, Inherit the Wind, their play based on the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial, was never meant to be factual. In the 1955 forward to the play, the authors—also known for their subsequent adaptation of Auntie Mame—stated, “The collision of William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow was dramatic, but it was not a drama. Moreover, the issues of their conflict have acquired new meaning in the thirty years since they clashed. So Inherit the Wind does not pretend to be journalism. It is theatre. It is not 1925. The stage directions set the time as ‘Not too long ago.’ It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow.”

Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalThe “It” the playwrights are referring to is not the argument over creationism versus evolution. That argument was a cornerstone of the true-life trial which resulted in John T. Scopes’ conviction for illegally teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in a Tennessee high school. To the playwrights, the fictionalized account of the trial was used as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control. The play remains relevant to modern audiences not because of its content, the science-versus-religion debate, but its contextual theme: it’s about a man’s right to think.

Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalThe “It” in “It could be tomorrow” refers to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s Red hunt hearings. Inherit the Wind opened on Broadway just 19 months after the closing of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which also fictionalized its subject matter—the 17th century Salem witch trials—to make an anti-McCarthyism statement (not long after Inherit the Wind opened, Miller was convicted of “contempt of Congress” for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended). This was a particularly exciting and prolific time for American dramatists, because they had something to say, and used storytelling on stage to make an impact. The stories were compelling, but the themes were timeless. With the continued polarization between fundamentalists and modernists in America, and freedom-of-speech issues still at the fore, now is indeed a pertinent time to attend The Globe’s Inherit the Wind, which stars Robert Foxworth (Henry Drummond) and Adrian Sparks (Matthew Harrison Brady).

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Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalWhile all of Shakespeare’s plays were originally presented outdoors, As You Like It seems one of the most fitting to be staged alfresco. The popular Arcadian comedy takes place at an orchard, on a lawn, and mostly in The Forest of Arden (since the action occurs in France, the forest may be intended as The Ardennes, an extensive region of forested land, but Shakespeare’s parents came from The Forest of Arden in Warwickshire, England). This isn’t Shakespeare’s only play which incorporates mistaken identities, deception, true love and gender-bending in the woods, but it does have a main theme that distinguishes it from A Midsummer Night’s Dream—and that is the contrast between Court and Country.

Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalThe good Duke (known as “Duke”) has been exiled by his usurping brother Frederick, and has taken to the forest with his faithful followers. His daughter Rosalind is also banished, fleeing to the woods with her cousin—Frederick’s daughter—Celia. Rosalind, because she is “more than common tall,” dresses up as a boy named Ganymede, and Celia becomes Aliena, Ganymede’s sister. Rosiland plays on her ambiguity to seduce her beloved Orlando by pretending to be herself, inadvertently winning the heart of a shepherdess named Phebe (yes, there are homoerotic overtones, especially when you consider that the women were played by boys in Shakespeare’s times).

Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalEventually, the entire cast—courtiers, wrestlers, servants, attendants—ends up in the forest, most of whom exist in a care-free life outside of the Court, offering charming songs and pure comedy with a pastoral background. There is one character, Jaques, an old disenchanted libertine, whose comments on life (including the famous “All the world’s a stage” speech) provide a biting contrast to the abundant love-banter, but that didn’t keep a disgruntled G.B. Shaw from asserting that As You Like It lacked “high artistry” and that Shakespeare wrote the play as a mere crowd-pleaser (Shaw went so far as to call the play As YOU Like It). A crowd-pleaser written by The Bard? You won’t hear me complaining.

The cast features Dana Green (Rosalind), Dan Amboyer (Orlando), Bob Pescovitz (Duke Senior), Vivia Font (Celia), Joseph Marcell (Touchstone), Allison Spratt Pearce (Phoebe), and Jacques C. Smith (Jaques).

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Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalRichard III has also been an ever-popular play, but for diametrically different reasons. It offers one of the most coldblooded characters in all of literature, and is told with such compelling, exciting drama that its length goes virtually unnoticed (in Shakespeare’s canon, only Hamlet is longer). The diabolical and ruthless Richard is so extraordinarily evil that had Niccolò Machiavelli never existed, the term describing someone who aims to deceive and manipulate others for personal advantage would surely be Richardian.

Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalThis Tragedy/History dramatizes the end of the horrific Wars of the Roses and the rise to power of the Tudor dynasty—namely, Henry VII. Richard, a brilliant and power-hungry lord, embarks on a bloody campaign to seize and keep the English crown. When Richard III was written in 1592, Queen Elizabeth I sat on the throne as a Tudor. SparkNotes Editors claim that Shakespeare had to court the favor of those in power, who literally could make or break his career. As a result, Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III as a vile, hateful villain is in part designed to set up a glorious ascension for Henry VII at the end of the play.

Tony Frankel's San Diego feature of The Old Globe's 2012 Shakespeare FestivalRichard III maintains a compulsive fascination among some scholars, as he was Shakespeare’s first fully-developed character as a psychological study. Essayist and critic Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) noted that the lord is no mere villain: “The wickedness of Richard proceeded from his deformity, from the envy that rose at the comparison of his own person with others, and which incited him to disturb the pleasures that he could not partake.” The play showcases Shakespeare’s astounding knowledge of the human personality, not only by his external observations but through his keen understanding of intuition and the subconscious. History tells us that Richard was a morose, unappealing man; Shakespeare uses this historical knowledge as a base, but he adds to Richard’s complex personality a certain joviality, a self-conscious delight in doing evil.

Chicago actor Jay Whittaker plays Richard, Duke of Gloucester (afterwards King Richard III). Whittaker appeared in the Globe’s 2011 Shakespeare Festival as Mozart in Amadeus and Don John in Much Ado About Nothing.  He also appeared in the 2010 Festival as Edgar in King Lear, Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew and William Pitt in The Madness of George III, for which he received the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Craig Noel Award honoring his work in all three productions. The cast also includes Happy Anderson (George, Duke of Clarence), Aidan Hayek (Young Duke of York), Charles Janasz (Stanley, Earl of Derby), Joseph Marcell (Lord Mayor), Jonas McMullen (Edward, Prince of Wales), Robin Moseley (Queen Margaret), and Bob Pescovitz (King Edward IV).

photos by Henry DiRocco

The Old Globe 2012 Shakespeare Festival
Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in San Diego
Inherit the Wind scheduled to end on September 25, 2012
Richard III scheduled to end on September 29, 2012
As You Like It scheduled to end on September 30, 2012
for tickets, call (619) 23-GLOBE [234-5623] or visit http://www.TheOldGlobe.org

{ 2 comments }

Chuck Molnar July 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm

When will the Scopes play play?

Tony Frankel July 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Chuck:

Go to The Old Globe calendar for all showtimes: http://www.theoldglobe.org/calendar/index.aspx

Editor-in-Chief Tony Frankel

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