For 10 years, I presented Family-Friendly-Shakespeare outdoors in NYC. It was always my summer joy! (Shakespeare in an Hour, published by Shakespeare, Inc.) So, for Shakespeare lovers, here are some local productions.
The fabulous Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival is presenting A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Titus Andronicus (Aaaagh!). Over in Topanga Canyon, Theatricum Botanicum, presents a timely Coriolanus - the political warrior who has contempt for the common people, in a city where the one-percent rules! Group Rep in NoHo has Romeo & Juliet upcoming in August, while over at Pasadena’s A Noise Within, youngsters perform his plays in Summer With Shakespeare.
MUTT HOUSE MUSICAL (Culver City)
A furry musical tale for animal lovers set in a neglected animal shelter. Residents include a Chihuahua named Pepe, a Mutt named Donna, a haughty French Poodle, a rambunctious Pit Bull, a handsome Lab mix and a pudgy Corgi. Creator Tony Cookson says, “The idea came to me in a dream. I saw singing dogs in an animal shelter, and started writing the next morning.” It’s a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney ‘let’s put on a show’ with original songs: Take Home A Stray; I’m Lying Here (Scratch Me), and When You Hear Barking, I Hear Words Instead. At Kirk Douglas Theatre.
SWORDS OF SORROW (Santa Monica)
Martial arts fans will be enthralled by this live presentation that provides all the things to love about Samurai drama. Warriors wield weapons, as obligations of honor and duty are fulfilled, in this action-packed story set in 19th Century feudal Japan. After her brother’s death, a young woman is compelled by a ghost to confront his killer in mortal combat and the stage is set for an epic sword battle. One of them must die! Playwright, director and producer, Naoki Fujiyama, portrays the ghost. This gripping historical family drama is a Burai Production, at Edgemar Center for the Arts.
Get ready for a rousing night of rock ‘n’ roll! Inspired by a famous recording session, this biographical musical tells what happened when icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins came together in December 1956 at Memphis’ Sun Studios. Hits include “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” “Fever,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “See Ya Later, Alligator,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “Hound Dog.” This live happening brings you inside the recording studio to experience a tale of broken promises, secrets, betrayal and celebrations. A Gershwin Entertainment production at Laguna Playhouse.
100 APRILS (Hollywood)
John Saypian is a modern-day Don Quixote. He and his family are second generation Armenians whose parents escaped the Genocide, but John believes a tormentor is pursuing him. Is the enemy a haunted memory from his childhood or is he real? This darkly comic play explores the generational consequences when history is denied. “I needed to contribute something to honor, and coincide with, the centennial commemoration of the Armenian genocide,” says playwright Leslie Ayvazian. “It is a story that all Armenians carry, and tell throughout generations. It lives partially in dreams, but cannot be silenced.” Rogue Machine Theatre at The Met.
This original play is performed by military veterans from Veterans Empowerment Theatre. Their artistic journey brings their personal stories, from life in boot camp to returning home, and highlights the difficulty of transitioning back into society. For one, her return unlocks memories that have been hidden away for years, another feels rejected because of the color of his skin, while another realizes family matters most. These heroes come together as a unit as they search for the strength to keep marching on. CRE Outreach’s theatre, The Blue Door, is a performing space for the voices and stories of people marginalized by society.
This article appears in the July issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.