The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA), under the artistic direction of Ben Donenberg, returns after 16 years to The Japanese Garden on the grounds of the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center Campus with a summer production of William Shakespeare's romantic comedy AS YOU LIKE IT directed by Royal Shakespeare Company artist Kenn Sabberton – July 10 to 29.
The cast is led by Tessa Thompson as Rosalind; she is known for roles on "Veronica Mars," "Grey's Anatomy," "Heroes" and upcoming BBC America "Copper," as well as Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" and Cordelia in "King Lear" here in Los Angeles. Peter Cambor, who played Nate Getz on "NCIS: Los Angeles" plays Orlando; Michael Dorn, well known as the Klingon Lt. Commander Worf from "Star Trek," plays both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior; Diane Venora, who played Hamlet for the New York Shakespeare Festival, as Jacques; John Lavelle, who played Ben in "The Graduate" on Broadway, as Touchstone; and veteran Los Angeles stage actor Tony Abatemarco as Adam and Corin. The cast also features Jantzen Baldeck, McKinley Belcher, Shann Dornhecker, Brian Joseph, Amy Judd Lieberman, Gabriella Rhodeen, Andrew Schwartz, and Lindsay Rae Taylor.
Ben Donenberg, Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Center said, "We are returning to the VA grounds to present Shakespeare – this time at the Japanese Garden, one of the loveliest outdoor venues on the West Side. Here we have a chance to enjoy one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies, with a great company of wonderful Los Angeles Shakespearean actors, led by a 10-year veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, complete with live music – an important part of our productions – on a lovely mid-summer evening, with al fresco dining. Additionally this allows us to continue working with Veterans, who will serve as valued members of our backstage and front of house team. Two veterans will also be part of the performing company, and we are making complimentary tickets available to active military personnel and veterans."
The production features original music by Brian Joseph, who wrote original music for the Shakespeare Center's 2010 production of "Much Ado About Nothing," featuring Lyle Lovett and Helen Hunt. The scenery is by Gary Wissmann, costumes by Holly Poe Durbin, and the lighting by Trevor Norton.
Director Kenn Sabberton has set the play in present day Los Angeles, where Shakespeare's court is likened to the corridors of governmental and corporate power and financial influence, and where the events of the day have brought about a sorry and sour state of affairs, stemming from family strife and political maneuverings among the characters.
Since this is Shakespeare, after all, the characters repair to the forest. The Forest of Arden has become the local rural orange groves, adjacent farmland, and Angeles Crest Forest campgrounds where the characters gather to sing, dance, fall in love, and discuss what is truly important for their own health and the health of mankind – as many Angelinos who regularly enjoy the natural settings that are easily accessible to all who live here. "In Shakespeare, as in life, there is a restorative power of nature and in art, creating music, dance and song, as a healing force," said Sabberton. "It is the transformative Shakespearean experience that an audience can enjoy – as audiences have for hundreds of years – under the moon and the stars."
This production brings the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles back to the VA grounds for the first time since 1992. The VA location speaks to many long-time themes of the Shakespeare Center – including presenting Shakespeare in a relevant way through settings that speak to present-day Angelenos, working with veterans, and using theatre as a tool for personal and community transformation.