Richard III, currently playing at the Hannon Theatre at Loyola High School, marks the 49th production for the theater’s Producing Artistic Director, Walter Wolfe. And it’s an ambitious one, involving a 24-foot-diameter revolving stage that must be turned by five students. Wolfe adds, “The show is done in Brechtian style, meaning that the theatricality of the events is in full view – nothing is hidden from the audience.”
Wolfe spent three years adapting Richard III to make it an ensemble piece and allow more students to be meaningfully involved in the story. “The ghosts who haunt Richard in the last act in the original,” says Wolfe, “have been expanded to be the narrators throughout the entire play. I’ve adapted the story to make up for the fact that Richard III depends on the audience knowing the events of the other six War of the Roses history plays. I borrowed from those first six and wrote my own verse to make the story seamless.”
Wolfe is a trained actor who studied at Cal State Fullerton and received a master’s degree in Performance from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He has worked as an actor in New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Prior to joining Loyola in 1994, he taught for five years at St. Bernard High School in Playa Del Rey. “When the opportunity to apply arose,” he says, “I knew I wanted to work at the best Catholic high school in California.”
The lead role of King Richard is being played by Bryce McMullin, a Fremont Place resident and Loyola junior with a rigorous course load, including four AP and honors level courses. McMullin has been honored by Loyola High as Cub of the Month for his dedication to work in the Hannon Theater Company, as well as for Campus Ministry and excellence in the classroom. He maintains a weighted cumulative GPA above 4.0.
Of McMullin, Wolfe says, “He has dedicated himself to the production since May, when he began the arduous process of memorizing the biggest amount of Shakespearean lines we have ever assigned a student. He diligently planned out how many lines of dialogue to learn every day for the entire summer and knew all 750 lines verbatim at his final audition in September.
“It was an audacious task to ask any student to take on, and he exceeded and continues to exceed every expectation – all the while maintaining excellence in all of his academic classes.”
Loyola is a Jesuit boys’ school, and Wolfe says, “Much like the philosophy of St. Ignatius, we work to foster the creative spirit in everyone and in everything we do.”
Female roles are filled by students from surrounding schools. Wolfe says, “Luckily, we have a reputation of professional caliber productions and young women from all over LA come to us and audition. We have eight schools represented in this production, but we have had young women from all over – 14 schools have participated in one way or another over my tenure.”
Represented in the current production are female actors from Marlborough, Marymount, Mayfield, Westridge, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, Hollywood High and Notre Dame Academy.
Wolfe’s knowledge of Shakespeare is extensive and includes three years of involvement with the La Cañada Flintridge Shakespeare Festival. Among his Loyola productions are a musical version of Macbeth using Motown songs, a musical version of Hamlet using the songs of Freddie Mercury and Queen and a Bollywood musical version of Taming of the Shrew.
In addition, Wolfe wrote an original Commedia dell’arte piece and has adapted several other Shakespearean plays. Classic works produced at the Hannon include Guys and Dolls, Into the Woods, Little Shop of Horrors and Oklahoma! Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, was in Damn Yankees at the Hannon in 1999.
Says Wolfe, “The real highlight for me was having both my son and daughter participate in the program.”
Loyola’s spring production will be Wolfe’s 50th. To mark his 25 years with the school, Wolfe and his colleague Steven Speciale have worked for three years developing an original musical. Wolfe describes it as “loosely based on the Don Juan legend but set in California during the 1920’s at the decline of vaudeville and the rise of talking pictures.”
The Hannon Theatre is located at 2628 W 15th St., near the intersection of Venice and Normandie. Richard III is playing November 15 and 16 at 8:00. Tickets are $15.00. There is on-campus parking. For more information and to purchase tickets, see https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?ticketing=htcol.