Some theatrical seasons are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. The 2013 summer lineup recently announced by Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC) may very well have the stirrings of greatness — it has at least proven that it can stir anticipation.
Marco Barricelli, SSC’s artistic director, said the company will perform “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Henry V” and “Tom Jones” this summer. In the fall, SSC will perform “Shakespeare Unscripted” as its annual fall benefit production, and in the winter SSC will collaborate with the UC Santa Cruz Theater Arts program to put on “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.”
“We’re looking forward to a very successful season,” Barricelli said.
The two Shakespeare plays provide the company’s traditional balance of comedy, history and tragedy, Barricelli said.
“These plays are terrific choices,” said Sean Keilen, a UCSC associate professor of literature who teaches classes about Shakespeare. “I am eager to see them both.”
The company hasn’t produced “The Taming of the Shrew” since the summer of 2004 and the wide gap of nine years merits a reproduction, Barricelli said. Among other things, it’s a comedy about a man’s attempts to woo a headstrong woman so that other suitors can propose to her younger sister, who by the rule of her father cannot marry until her older sister does.
“‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ a relatively early comedy, includes some of Shakespeare’s most original and unsettling reflections on gender, education and marriage,” Keilen said.
In the summer of 2011, SSC put on “Henry IV, Part I,” and in the summer of 2012, the company put on “Henry IV, Part II.” This summer’s production of “Henry V” will complete the trilogy.
“It’s like ‘Lord of the Rings,’ or those kinds of movies that are out now,” Barricelli said.
The play follows King Henry V, once an unruly adolescent, as he assumes the throne after his father’s death. It chronicles the history of his invasion of France and the politics, betrayals, romances and intrigues that surround the 15th century.
“‘Henry V’ is a culmination of [Shakespeare’s] work in the genre of the history play, which he more or less invented,” Keilen said.
Theatrical director Jon Jory’s stage adaptation of “Tom Jones,” based on Henry Fielding’s novel, will be the fringe production. Annually, the fringe production is put on entirely by SSC acting and production interns.
“It’s an incredible moment for us all to get to see [the interns] spread their wings and fly,” said Lydia Bushfield, SSC’s interim marketing manager.
“Tom Jones” enacts the story of a man entangled in the complications that arise during the pursuit of his true love. Although desperate for one woman, other women fall for him, lust after him and pursue him in his struggle for his true love’s hand.
“It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s charming, it’s really well written,” Barricelli said. “I think it will be a great time for everybody involved.”
Unlike previous seasons, all three of the summer plays will be held outdoors in the Redwood Grove — a setting reminiscent of many a midsummer night’s dream.
“The language in [the plays] is adaptable to different spaces,” Barricelli said. “There is scope out there, in the Redwood Grove. It adapts itself well — it can really support metaphor on stage.”
Performing outside recalls the feel of the open air Globe Theatre in London, Barricelli said, where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed in the 17th century and continue to be performed today.
“That’s more along the aesthetic of what Shakespeare was writing,” Barricelli said. “They didn’t have the luxury of lights.”
Structural renovations are also being done on the stage. The previous platform had “run its course,” Barricelli said and SSC is using the necessary tuneup to address a range of prior issues, such as expanding backstage and storage space. They also plan to use it as an opportunity to incorporate the natural setting of the Redwood Grove into the stage itself.
“We’re making it in such a way that now the trees are part of every set,” Barricelli said. “It’s much more about embracing the natural beauty of that space and the vertical lines of all those trees growing up to the heavens — that’s part of our signature.”
In the fall and winter, SSC will move indoors to the UCSC Theater Arts Mainstage for “Shakespeare Unscripted” and “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” Keilen said he is very excited for “Shakespeare Unscripted” — a play where the actors allow the audience to shape and change the original play by calling out suggestions.
“Living at such a great distance from Renaissance England, we tend to think of Shakespeare’s works as fixed monuments: printed books, scholarly editions, authoritative texts,” Keilen said. “But during Shakespeare’s own lifetime, the scripts that he wrote were fluid texts, endlessly revisable in performance.”
Keilen said that it is important to encourage students to approach Shakespeare’s works as “sources of unusual ideas … as things to learn with.”
“The unusual interdisciplinary environment at UCSC — where people in literature, theater arts, and Shakespeare Santa Cruz come together to engage Shakespeare — means that UCSC will have an important role to play in Shakespeare’s future, whatever form it takes,” he said.
Tickets are on sale now at shakespearesantacruz.org. “The Taming of the Shrew” will run from July 23 – Sept. 1, “Henry V” from Aug. 6 – Sept. 1, “Tom Jones” from Aug. 20 – Sept. 1, “Shakespeare Unscripted” on Oct. 13 and “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” from Nov. 15 – Dec. 8.