Picnics And Shakespeare At Griffith Park
Located beside the old L.A. Zoo on a broad slope, the Shakespeare Festival set by the Independent Shakespeare Co. performs three shows from Thursday to Sunday: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Winter’s Tale" and “The Comedy of Errors.”
Enjoying food and wine in the summer breeze with friends and family while watching Shakespeare is no doubt a great comfort for the audience. But it takes the actors a lot of breath, vocal techniques and tremendous energy to perform outside.
Without a roof, back walls and microphones, they put in extra effort to make sure the audience can hear them clearly: they have to compete with cellphones, food and nature to grip the audience’s attention.
“Vocally we need to adjust our voices, project more because the wind would carry the voice,” said actor Bernadette Sullivan, who plays Emilia in "The Winter's Tale."
She said it’s like magic to play in the park, but you have to get used to the sounds of eating, drinking and toilets flushing. Even the humidity of the air and moisture on the stage can be problematic for performers.
David Melville, ISC’s managing director, acknowledges it’s hard to perform outside, but said that “Shakespeare is written to be performed in big spaces.”
“His language is really written to be spoken in big volume,” said Melville.
And ISC is quite successful. You hardly hear any sounds from the 200 audience members except laughter, although much of it comes from picnicing friends and families.
Max Sosna-Spear came with his friends because it’s free, and it’s in the park.
“It seems to be a fun thing to do,” he said.
And they stayed the whole night for the show.
This week’s show features “The Comedy of Errors.” It’s a story of how two sets of twins that are separated at birth, due to a series of mishaps because of mistaken identity, reunite with their family.
There is also some interaction with the audience. When the hero is asked to raise ransom to avoid being executed, the actor went into the audience. He received some money, but also tissues. During some scenes, the actors even “borrowed” the audiences' food to attack each other.
While doing a good job preserving the poetry and rhythm of Shakespeare, the performers also made some adjustments to the language to make it easier for a modern audience.
It’s the third season ISC is playing in Griffith Park, and ninth season in all. Melville said although “free” sounds crazy, they are mainly supported by the audience. According to Melville, about 70 percent of their budget comes from individual donations, and they are doing much better than playing in small theaters asking for tickets.
“It’s like public radio,” he said.
Sit in the park to enjoy the show:
Reach Kay Chinn here.