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Complete Shakespeare Festival Guide


Much ado about something

By Christa Palmer

THREE Merry Wives of Windsors, two each of As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Pericles and Much Ado About Nothing and a clutch of other classics. Outdoor Shakespeare festivals seem to be as much a harbinger of summer in the Bay Area and beyond as tourists in T-shirts and shorts shivering at the cable car turnaround. As usual, the Bard gets every conceivable treatment again this year, as festival organizers throughout Northern California and across the state line into Nevada vie for audiences with imaginative staging, elaborate costumes and some of the most beautiful natural settings ever to host the immortal plays. Here is an easy reference guide to help you choose from various festivals within driving distance of San Francisco. If you want to make a weekend of it, organizers will be happy to recommend hotels and B&Bs in their area. Take a picnic, low chairs and pillows, and don't forget a blanket to fend against often chilling evening breezes.

Martin Kildare is California Shakespeare Festival's Henry V.

California Shakespeare Festival
The 23rd season at "Cal Shakes" features three comedies and one historical play. Says new artistic director Joe Vincent, "We are the oldest in Northern California, with the only outdoor theatre that represents the same floor plan as the Old Globe Shakespeare Theater in London. What makes our festival a special theatrical experience is the pristine and delightful natural setting." Audiences can expect to be no further than 75 feet from the stage in terrace and chair seating, enjoying beautiful sunsets in the East Bay foothills.
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Thru July 28; Henry V, July 6-Aug 3; Twelfth Night, Aug 10-Sep 7; Measure for Measure, Sep 14-Oct 6; 8:00pm, $18-32 adults, $10-12 children, Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, Siesta Valley, Orinda, 510/548-9666.

Carmel Shakespeare Festival
Take a trip to the Monterey Bay Area for one of the more unusual treatments of the Bard in Cymbeline, Henry IV, Part I and Pericles. Says Cymbeline director Jeffrey Heyer, "Elizabethan knowledge of history was not as accurate as we think it was. Shakespeare couldn't imagine women as warriors. Instead, they were mystics or 'court magicians.' So, authentic to Celtic Britain, we have women playing the men's warrior roles and men playing the women's roles." In Henry IV, Part I and Pericles, directed by Stephen Moorer, the sets and costumes are also historically based. Enjoy the sounds of the sea from the looming pine trees of the Forest Theater, the Pacific Ocean standing in for the shores of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, where the dark romance Pericles takes place.
Cymbeline, Aug 1-Oct 5, 7:30 pm, $15, Circle Theatre; Henry IV, Part I, Sep 6-29, 7:30 pm, $15, Golden Bough Theatre; Pericles, Sep 19-Oct 6, 8:00pm, $12, Outdoor Forest Theatre, 408/622-0700.

Diane Wasnak of the New Pickle Circus is an acrobatic Puck in Marin Shakespeare Company's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Marin Shakespeare Company
Could Captain Hook possibly have been one of Shakespeare's drinking partners before becoming a pirate? So suggests the Marin Shakespeare Company. Says Managing Director Leslie Currier, "We do a Shakespearean interpretation of Peter Pan where we think that Captain Hook didn't quite cut it as an actor with Shakespeare and instead took up being a pirate!" J.M. Barrie's play and A Midsummer Night's Dream get the flying, jumping, acrobatic treatment by guest performers from the New Pickle Circus. "Having the circus element in both performances makes a great introduction to Shakespeare for children and adults," says Currier. "It's a classical and elegant experience without political or social commentary. It's especially magical when the moon is full, because it rises over the Forest Meadows Amphitheater and creates a mystical glow of natural lighting."
A Midsummer Night's Dream, July 20-Aug 11; Peter Pan Aug 24-Sep 22, Thur 7:00pm, Fri & Sat 8:00pm, Sun 4:00pm, $10-16, Forest Meadows Amphitheater, Grand Avenue, San Rafael, 415/456-8104.

San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
The promoters of Free Shakespeare in the Park this year present Love's Labour's Lost, a tale of noble vows and the power of love, in Golden Gate Park and four other Bay Area cities. The company also produces a summer festival in a natural amphitheater at Sand Harbor in North Lake Tahoe, this year featuring The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing. Says Marketing Director Charles McCue, "Our motive is to make our productions and the timelessness of Shakespeare a traditional experience that is accessible to everyone." Children aged 8-16 may also be interested in attending a Shakespeare Camp, presented every summer throughout the Bay Area in association with KRON.
Love's Labour's Lost, Oct 5-13, Sat & Sun, 1:30 pm, Golden Gate Park. Also in San Ramon, Cupertino, Oakland and San Jose, 666-2221; The Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing, Aug 2-Sep 1, $12-20, 7:30pm, Sand Harbor, North Lake Tahoe, Nevada, 800/468-2463.

Shakespeare at the Beach
This Marin-based company has its own outdoor amphitheater, located just yards from the ocean at Stinson Beach. For the purists, The Merry Wives of Windsor is traditionally done in tights with an Elizabethan setting, while As You Like It is relocated from the Forest of Arden to the MGM back lot in 1930s Hollywood. In the Northern California premiere of Dakin Matthews' Uncommon Players (it first played last year at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre), four of the greatest Shakespearean actors - Sir Laurence Olivier, Charlotte Cushman, Ned Forest and Dame Edith Evans - find themselves trapped together in purgatory, arguing, laughing and reminiscing about the playwright who made them famous.
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Thru July 14; As You Like It, July 26-Aug 25; Uncommon Players, Sep 6-29, Fri & Sat 7:00pm, Sun 6:00pm, $12-15, 15 Calle Del Mar, Stinson Beach, 868 9500.


Shakespeare Santa Cruz
Offering theatre-goers a rare chance to compare the comic and cosmic visions of two theatrical masters, Shakespeare Santa Cruz presents two Shakespeare plays, Twelfth Night and Pericles, and French playwright Moliere's comedy, Tartuffe. The theme of this 15th anniversary season is "Behind the Seen: A Season of Love's Discoveries," and each of the three plays demonstrates the power of love and reveals the true nature of things in a world that is rarely straightforward. Says publicist Nancy Bertossa, "Access to university resources enables Shakespeare Santa Cruz to combine the best of contemporary Shakespeare scholarship with very high production values."
Twelfth Night, July 20-Sep 1; Tartuffe July 27- Aug 31; Pericles July 28-Aug 31, $15-21, Performing Arts Complex, U.C. Santa Cruz, 408/459-2159.

Sonoma Valley Avalon Players
Someone just may come over to where you are sitting, drink your wine, steal your baby or kiss your girlfriend! Known for going by the text, while throwing in spontaneous elements of surprise, the Avalon Players' 16th season features Much Ado About Nothing as it was originally presented, with an outdoor set and dramatic, physical gestures. Nestled in the rolling hills of the historic Buena Vista Winery, the atmosphere is relaxed and casual with frequent audience interaction. Says director Kate Kennedy, "I like to trim the fat on our productions by keeping to the text and not dragging it out for hours. But, in trimming the fat, we enjoy spontaneity and improv off of the text, making our performances always fun and intimate." The obligatory picnic table seating and food and wine are available.
Much Ado About Nothing, July 5-Sep 29, 7:00pm, $14, u-10 free, Buena Vista Winery, 18000 Old Winery Rd., Sonoma, 707/938-1266.

Sonoma Valley Shakespeare Festival
Set among acres of vineyards at the Gundlach Bundschu Winery outdoor amphitheater, the Sonoma Valley Shakespeare Festival's fifth summer season comprises The Merry Wives of Windsor, As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet. In this production, the Merry Wives and Falstaff find themselves in the Wild West! The setting provides an ideal substitute for the Forest of Arden, where the love quest continues between Rosalind and Orlinda in As You Like It. The final show features the tragedy of young love gone awry in Romeo and Juliet.
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Thru Sep 29; As You Like It, June 28-Sep 27; Romeo and Juliet, July 12-Sep 28, 7 pm, $17, children free, Gundlach Bunschu Winery, Sonoma, 707/584-1700.

Valley of the Moon Shakespeare
Delightfully set among moss-covered oaks in historic Glen Ellen's Dunbar Meadow, The Tempest is a romantic tale of magical illusion, betrayal, forgiveness and the triumph of love, set on an enchanted island. Nymphs in airy, gauzy, free-flowing costumes and spirits represented as land animals dance together to the music of Dead Can Dance, embracing the audience with their bodies in a choreographed recreation of a tempest. Says assistant producer Celeste Winders, "We use our surroundings and design our stage to fit our environment. We bring our audience into this performance so that they can experience an island feeling with a Grecian influence."
The Tempest, Aug 3-Sep 22, Sat & Sun 7:00pm, $10-12, 11700 Dunbar Road, Glen Ellen, 707/996-4802.

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From the July 1996 issue of SF Live

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