The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble turned a lot of pages in the last week. Beginning on Sunday, April 25, 32 actors spent the week reading the entire Shakespeare canon of plays in a non-stop, round-the-clock staged reading. From revenge seeking Danes to disobedient daughters, the troupe gave voice to every Shakespearean character in a run that will finish on Friday, April 29.
So, why all the alases, nays and wherefores? The six-day marathon reading was mounted to fund the first installment of the company’s free Shakespeare on the Deck series, which will launch this summer with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The large outdoor deck behind the Powerhouse Theatre, where the company is in residence, seems the perfect spot for the course of true love to get off track in a magical wood.
“The idea of putting Shakespeare on the deck is something I have been thinking about for a long time, and the idea of putting on free theatre has been something I’ve wanted to do since the beginning of the Ensemble,” said The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble Artistic Director, Tom Burmester. “Shakespeare seems like something that should be free.”
With their eye on funding free theatre, the readers participating in the non-stop reading got sponsors to underwrite their participation. All proceeds will support performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Jon Redding, who will direct the summer production of “Midsummer” got the show on the road Sunday, with a lot of help from company member Eric Sims. Redding and Sims put the plays in what they called “roughly chronological order”, but took a few plays out of sequence for effect. The series stared with a reading of “Midsummer” as a reminder of the fundraising goal.
“We will end with Hamlet, because, well, it’s Hamlet,” Sims said.
The theatre was abuzz with energy on Sunday, as the first batch of actors gathered for the reading’s kick-off. I suspect that by mid-week, perhaps during a 4 a.m. reading of Titus Andronicus that was done in conjunction with Shakespeare Santa Monica, the energy may not have been as high. I also suspect that the plucky gang of actors was happy to lose a little sleep for the chance to deliver free Shakespeare to the community.
To learn more about the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble www.latensemble.org.
Mirror Contributing Writeramy@smmirror.com