A new Shakespeare ensemble will debut at Descanso Gardens on April 21 with a performance of Twelfth Night.
Three working actors had an idea one evening over dinner: what if they got the best Shakespearean actors they knew, then stripped their favorite plays down to only the words and the people? No fairy costumes. No artificial inflection. Just a dogged determination to tell the story at hand. By the end of dinner, the California Shakespeare Ensemble was born.
The ensemble is based on the idea of a supergroup; it is a side project for currently working actors, and an incubator for up-and-coming actors. Some in the ensemble are the stars of hit TV shows (Ken Baumann on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, David Blue from Stargate: Universe and Ugly Betty), and some in the ensemble are fresh from training at NYU, RADA, and Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Roles are cast from the ensemble without regard to name recognition.
What: “Twelfth Night”, a staged reading of a play by William Shakespeare
Who: The California Shakespeare Ensemble, a new theatrical side project of working actors in Los Angeles.
Where: Descanso Gardens’ beautiful Under The Oaks Theater
When: April 21st at 3:30
Admission: Free with admission to the gardens. No reservations are necessary, but get there early to assure the best seating.
Why a Staged Reading?
The focus in theater during Shakespeare’s time was much more on the act of listening and use of one’s imagination than in today’s visually lavish performances. The wealthy patrons of the arts paid extra to be in seats that sometimes barely had a view of the stage, but which allowed them to hear the words being spoken by the actors. The ensemble seeks to revive the art of telling grand stories with only actors and words.
The show goes like this: the actors assemble on stage in a semi-circle of chairs, with music stands set up in front of the audience. Each scene brings new actors forward towards the audience to act their scenes with their scripts on music stands, and at the end of the scene the actors return to their seats and watch the following scene happen, along with the audience. It is fast-paced and fun, and will have even Shakespearean “newbies” understanding and enjoying.
The approximate run time is 90 minutes. Due to the cerebral nature of a reading, the ensemble recommends the show for adults and teens. There is no overt vulgarity, but the show is recommended for 12 years of age and older.
The preceding information was supplied by Brian Elerding, executive director of the ensemble.