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Shakespeare in the Park

Hamlet being performed by the Independent Shakespeare Company, photo credit Ivy Augusta

Blankets on the grass, picnic at the ready, sun setting behind you, and Shakespeare on stage before you. Yes – it’s LA’s seasonal marker for the beginning of summer: the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival. Mark your calendars for May 12th.

ISC Production of Hamlet, photo credit Ivy Augusta

If you haven’t yet made the trek to the grounds of the old LA Zoo for Shakespeare in the park, this is the year to make it a regular part of your summer experience. Tucked in the hills behind the carousel in Griffith Park, kids love to explore the still-scary remnants of the bear caves and tiger cages prior to show time while adults settle back in the sunshine, sipping their chardonnay and waiting for the 4 pm curtain.

The shows are exhilarating and performed by a top-notch cadre of fine classical actors, the Independent Shakespeare Company (ISC). These professionals  are as dedicated to bringing the Bard to the masses as they are to their performances. The season opens this year  with “As You Like It” (pre-show entertainment at 2 pm, performance at 4pm, May 12, 2012) which is also a fundraiser to help support the troupe’s staging the remainder of the season FREE to the public. Last year the ISC season reached 25,000 people, making theater, and Shakespeare, accessible to many people who would never otherwise have the opportunity to see live theater.

Windsor Blvd resident John Bauman jumped onto the Bard bandwagon after seeing an ISC production in Barnsdall Park in 2006. The former actor, now manager of writers and directors in TV/film, has been serving as Chaiman of the Board of Directors ever since and is thrilled with the growth of the outdoor theater program, as well as the growth of the company itself. “It started out as an arts collective, but has become a true arts organization now,” noted Bauman in an interview. “ISC is one of only five theater companies that pay equity wages and pension/healthcare, yet is still free to the public.” The way they do this is through the sponsorship from a few generous donors, as well as the annual kick-off fundraiser. Tickets for the May 12th fundraiser are $50 for a family of 4, $25 for an individual, or $100 for a special VIP seat which will put you front and center to all the action.

The Griffith Park Shakespeare Festival hopes to become the kind of familiar institution like the Hollywood Bowl or a Dodger game, that becomes a part of Angelenos must-do list in the summer months. ” It gives you the rare fleeting feeling of community in LA, and it’s accessible, free and fun,” Bauman shared with the Buzz. “It’s the whole gestalt of people dining on strawberries and champagne next to families with their take-out Pollo Loco – it’s all very egalitarian, and interesting.”

The ISC often also puts on a Players in the Park segment, two hours prior to show time, that encourages audience members to engage with the material, go onstage, and get an overview of the plot of the show. It goes a long way to helping those unfamiliar with Shakespeare to more easily understand the story, and not get derailed by language that is sometimes confusing.

So pack your picnic, grab your blanket and the kids, and find a place on the lawn in Griffith Park on May 12th. You won’t regret you did.

ISC doing Love’s Labours Lost, photo credit Ivy Augusta
Love’s Labours Lost, photo credit Ivy Augusta
Hamlet in the park, photo credit Ivy Augusta 


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Julie Grist
Julie Grist
Julie co-founded the Larchmont Buzz with fellow buzzer Mary Hawley in 2011 and served as Editor, Publisher and writer for the hive for many years until the sale of the Buzz in August 2015. She is still circling the hive as an occasional writer.

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