Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Get ready to pray for a fog-free summer this year, when Shakespeare Santa Cruz presents its first ever all-outdoor summer season.

Traditionally, one, if not more, of the SSC summer productions in repertoire is mounted indoors, in the Mainstage Theatre. But in this pared down, 2013 season, all three of the plays (including the Fringe offering) will be performed outside, under the redwoods, in the newly renovated Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen.

Watching a live performance in the Glen has always been a high point of any SSC season, with the breeze whispering in the redwoods, above (or the moon and stars peeking through the foliage), and the "groundlings" sprawled at the foot of the stage, with their picnic baskets. Who doesn't have fond memories of the cast of Danny Scheie's original production of A Comedy of Errors  on their tandem bicycle pedaling down the aisles to the stage? Or Paul Whitworth in an earlier production of Henry IV Part I, arriving out of the forest on a motorcycle? Or J. Todd Adams as Puck back-flipping off the stage in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

It all harks back to Shakepeare's era, when going to the theatre was always an open-air experience. Elizabethan theatres were built in a round or octagonal shape (The Rose, sketched above, the Globe, The Curtain, The Swan), with thatched roofs over the tiers of boxes. But the stage in the middle and the groundling area before it were left uncovered; plays were performed in the daytime and they needed all the natural light they could get.

The SSC Festival Glen has living redwoods and banked seating instead of thatch and boxes. It also has a sophisticated electrical lighting system, which can make for some atmospheric, even spooky nighttime effects. (Remember the ghosts and witches popping up out of the foliage in an early production of Macbeth?)

And improvements are being made to the Glen as we speak. Scenic Designer Michael Ganio promises an expanded picnic area down front, and improved sightlines from all angles in the raked seating opposite the stage.

As to what's going on that stage this year, here's the scoop. This season's comedy will be The Taming Of the Shrew, Shakespeare's popular and funny, yet notoriously un-PC battle-of-the-sexes romp.

The drama will be Henry V, possibly the most heroic of Shakespeare's history plays; it's also the final installment of the "Henriad," the three-play cycle begun with Henry IV Part 1 in 2011, and Henry IV Part 2 last summer. Charles Pasternak will return to the role of Prince Hal/Henry.  Follow the links to catch up with the story so far!

Finally, this summer's Fringe production will be a new adaptation of Henry Fielding's 18th Century novel Tom Jones, the sexy coming-of-age tale of a good-hearted young foundling "born to be hanged," and a world of hungry women who have more creative ideas. The show will be staged in the Glen for two performances only by the entire cast of this year's SSC interns.

The SSC 2013 season plays July 23 to September 1. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, April 2. Visit the SSC website for ticket info, and watch a video where Artistic Director Marco Barricelli explains it all for you.

See you in the Glen!

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