There’s nothing quite like sitting under a canopy of trees while the summer sun sets, watching a Shakespeare play unfold in an outdoor theater.
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night this summer, the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company and California Lutheran University (CLU) present a Bard play beneath the stars.
Spectators usually arrive early with picnic dinners and lawn chairs to enjoy a meal before the play begins, while the company’s 'junior apprentices' (high school students who are interning with the professional actors) walk around in sixteenth century attire.
Even with all of the Shakespeare-based movies I have seen and plays I have read and watched as part of my high school education, I can easily say that the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company's performance of The Taming of the Shrew in Old English gave the 400-year-old play new life.
The authentic sets, vibrant costumes, and lively performances kept a young viewers like me interested and engaged in the timeless story.
The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company, Cal Lutheran’s resident theater company, is celebrating it’s 15th season with two plays: The Taming of the Shrew, running on weekends from July 1st to July 17th, and The Merchant of Venice, running from July 22nd to August 7th.
According to the welcome letter written at the beginning of the casting list, both plays are intended to engender conversation over their controversial subject matter. “We want you to talk about the production as you leave Kingsmen Park,” wrote Michael J. Arndt, the company's artistic director.
They achieved their intended purpose. As my friends and I left the park, we mused over the relationship between Katherina and Petruchio, laughing over the charming play while questioning the message of a wife’s submission to her husband’s will.
As stated on their web site, the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company was founded in 1997 when the Santa Susana Repertory Theatre Company and the Drama Department of Cal Lutheran collaborated to put on the first summer festival, which enjoyed major success. Since then, professional actors have worked alongside interns from the Cal Lu drama department and apprentices from national college and university theater programs to present professional and entertaining renditions of some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.
“It’s a great opportunity to work as part of a professional theater company,” said intern and CLU student Taylor Lampella. "Knowing that the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company offers young people the opportunity to pursue their passion makes the outing all the more impressive and worthwhile.
The pairing of the classic play with the lazy Sunday afternoon picnic seemed just casual enough. It also added interest to something that (let’s face it) most people our age would rather avoid when we’re not in school. It’s the entire experience and the ambiance that is alluring, even to those who aren’t necessarily Shakespeare enthusiasts.
“It was a beautiful evening and atmosphere,” said Peter Gelber, a second-time Shakespeare Festival attendee. “The people are very nice...It’s a great event to have in the community.”
To learn more about the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company, the Festival, and the plays, visit their website.