Friday, July 9, 2004

One of the three plays being performed is "King Lear, starring, from left, Laura Bach Buzzell as Goneril, Annie Lipscomb as Cordelia and Taurie Kinoshita as Regan.

Shakespeare festival opens

Why is Tony Pisculli directing an all-female cast in "Love's Labors Lost" at this year's Hawaii Shakespeare Festival?

Because talent of either gender is a terrible thing to waste.

"If 100 people audition, and 50 are men and 50 are women, and you have 40 parts for men and 10 parts for women, you can be struggling to find actors to fill the male roles and throwing away talented women," Pisculli explained.

The festival opens at Windward Community College's Paliku Theatre tonight and, for the second time since he co-founded the festival with R. Kevin Doyle and Harry Wong III two years ago, Pisculli is working with an all-female cast.

"I wouldn't do 'Romeo & Juliet' (with all women) because I want that male/female chemistry -- the male energy right up against the female energy -- and it's the same with 'Macbeth,' but 'Love's Labors Lost' is a very courtly comedy. There's a lot of passion, but it's very romantic love as opposed to sexual love."

Pisculli added that when he cast all women in 2002's festival production of "Two Gentlemen of Verona," it was intentional, but "this year, it's strictly economics (and) making the best use of the talent pool. It gives women an opportunity to play parts they would otherwise never get a chance to play."

Kumu Kahua Artistic Director Harry Wong III directs the second show in the series, "King Lear," which opens next Friday, with additional performances through July 25. R. Kevin Doyle's staging of "All's Well That Ends Well" will open on July 23 and run through Aug. 1.

Once again, performance schedules have been set such that it will be possible to see both "Love's Labors Lost" and "King Lear" next weekend, or even back-to-back next Saturday, or do the same with "King Lear" and "All's Well That Ends Well" the weekend after that.

"Hopefully next year, if we pull a big enough audience this year, we can extend it to a five-week run and then there'll be at least one weekend when you can see all three plays, if you want to. That to me really makes it like a festival, when you can go for one or two days and see three Shakespeare plays," Pisculli said.

A five-week summer Shakespeare festival may seem a bit problematic, given local tastes in theatrical fare, but Pisculli says that the summer is the perfect time to direct a festival if you're teaching theater during the traditional school year.

"At the time we decided (on a summer festival), R. Kevin and I were both teaching at Mid-Pac and it was the time when the three of us directors were free and we thought a lot of actors would also be free. We cast a lot of college students."

IT'S TURNED OUT to be a wise call. The proof may be seen in the caliber of the actors who'll be performing over the next four weeks. Jennifer Robideau -- Lady Macbeth in Pisculli's powerful production of "Macbeth" in 2003, and Julia in "Two Gentlemen of Verona" -- returns this year as the Princess of France in "Love's Labors Lost."

Kumu Kahua veteran Dann Seki stars as King Lear in a cast that also includes Laura Bach Buzzell, Taurie Kinoshita, Jeremy Pippin, John Wat and Brent Yoshikami.

"All's Well That Ends Well" will include Gerald Altwies, BullDog, Alvin Chan, Linda Johnson and Danel Verdugo.

Pisculli especially applauds Seki's portrayal of the mad warrior king.

"It's one of the great roles and he handles it very well. Harry also has Annie Lipscombe playing a dual role as Cordelia and Lear's Fool, and she is fantastic, and there's a great supporting cast as well ... "All's Well That Ends Well" is inspired by a fairy tale, and so R. Kevin is really playing up (that) aspect with the direction and the staging."

One of the things that Pisculli, Doyle and Wong have been doing in the festival is take calculated risks with the material. Besides having women do all the roles in "Two Gentlemen of Verona," Pisculli's "Macbeth" had the witches as seductresses, rather than the conventional hags. Macbeth (played convincingly by Alvin Chan), while confident on the battlefield, feared the sexual power women held over men.

Doyle likewise experimented last year by using a Beijing-trained fight choreographer to create non-traditional battle scenes in "Henry IV -- Part 1."

And, for all the concerns about the general dumbing-down of American culture, Pisculli says that the festival is building a loyal following.

"There's definitely a demand. People come up to me and say, 'Thank God, someone in the island is doing Shakespeare.' ... We doubled our attendance last year over the first year. I don't know if we'll double it again but I hope we will increase some more."

Hawaii Shakespeare Festival 2004

Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College

Schedule of plays:

>> "Love's Labors Lost," directed by Tony Pisculli, at 8 p.m. today, tomorrow, July 15 and 17, and 4 p.m. July 18

>> "King Lear," directed by Harry Wong III, at 8 p.m. July 16, 22 and 24, and 4 p.m. July 17 and 25

>> "All's Well That Ends Well," directed by R. Kevin Doyle, at 8 p.m. July 23, 30 and 31, and 4 p.m. July 24 and Aug. 1

Tickets: $36 season ticket, $16 general, $14 for seniors and military, and $8 students, with a group rate of $12 for 10 or more for any one particular play

Call: 235-7433

Hawaii Shakespeare Festival

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