Top picks for 2013. Keep in mind that not all of the usual suspects have announced their seasons so I'll have more info to come, but for now, here's a look at some Southern California Shakespeare productions not to miss.
Kicking off the New Year with the first Shakespeare production of 2013 will be The Porters of Hellsgate's KING LEAR, opening January 4 at studio/stage in Hollywood. The Porters are an ambitious young company, and with Larry Cedar in the title role, their production of LEAR promises to be one not to miss. Thomas Bigley directs. www.portersofhellsgate.com
The Chicago-based Improvised Shakespeare Company will make an appearance in Southern California at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach on March 9. ISC is a crazy bunch of actors who turn Shakespeare upside down by creating a completely improvised play in Elizabethan style all from an audience suggestion. They put on one of the funniest performances you'll ever see; this is your chance to catch them here in our area, complete with star-crossed lovers, sword fights, Shakespearean insults and maddening mayhem. www.carpenterarts.org/2012-2013/the-improvised-shakespeare-company.html
Two of Shakespeare's plays get the musical treatment in 2013 and both feature a reinvention of their respective plays. At South Coast Rep it's THE VERONA PROJECT, a hip, modern interpretation of TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA that features a rock band called The Verona Project to tell the story. It originated at Cal Shakes in Northern California and is written and directed by Amanda Dehnert. Previews begin May 10. www.scr.org/calendar/view.aspx?id=5168#.UOOKzm_AfTo [Update: this show has been cancelled].
The other is The Troubadour Theatre Company's A MIDSUMMER SATURDAY NIGHT'S FEVER DREAM, which will play in Toluca Lake at the Falcon Theatre May 31 - July 7 and at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts July 12 - 14. Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and the 70's disco classic Saturday Night Fever will be blended up and served Troubie style, complete with fairy wings, tights and white disco suits in this updated version of the Troubie favorite. www.falcontheatre.com
Thousands of Angelenos look forward to Independent Shakespeare Co.'s Free Shakespeare Festival in Griffith Park each year and the 2013 summer season looks to be the best yet. Last year's absolutely charming benefit production of AS YOU LIKE IT, starring Melissa Chalsma as Rosalind, will have a full run this summer, along with Shakespeare's tragedy, MACBETH, and Oliver Goldsmith's SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER. If you've never been to the festival, make this the year you see what the buzz is all about. My lawn chair and picnic basket are ready and waiting. www.iscla.org
Topanga Canyon also has its own popular outdoor theatre among the stars, The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum; a favorite of locals since the early 1950s. The company's summer will kick off in June with THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and though no casting has been announced, it's fun to speculate who will be sparring onstage as Kate and Petruchio. www.theatricum.com
In San Diego, The Old Globe's Summer Shakespeare Festival finds Miles Anderson returning as Shylock in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (June 9 - Sept. 28). If you saw him as Prospero in THE TEMPEST, you'll know why his Shylock is high on my list of plays to see in 2013. Adrian Noble directs. The Old Globe's season also features A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and Tom Stoppard's ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD. www.theoldglobe.org
You'll have to wait until Fall to see RII, but Boston Court's adaptation of RICHARD II, conceived and directed by Jessica Kubzansky, will hit the stage beginning September 5. It features three actors and is billed as a theatrical, raw, stripped down take on the ultimate identity crisis. It's an exciting concept and one that is sure to be a high point of the Shakespeare season. www.bostoncourt.com/events/163/r-ii