Friday, July 1, 2005


The 2005 Hawaii Shakespeare Festival closes with "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which stars Annie Lipscomb as Titania and Jason Kanda as Bottom.

Shakespeare festival
takes new tack

"A Winter's Tale" is a unique
choice of material to show at
the Ernst Lab Theatre

Downsizing is not necessarily a bad thing. That's how R. Kevin Doyle sees the decision to move the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival from the spacious Paliku Theatre in Kaneohe to the 150-seat Ernst Lab Theatre at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Bard's summer

2005 Hawaii Shakespeare Festival presents

» "A Winter's Tale": Directed by R. Kevin Doyle, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and continues with performances 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 8, 13 and 23; and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 9 and 24.

» "Romeo and Juliet": Directed by Tony Pisculli, opens at 7:30 p.m. July 9, and continues with performances 7:30 p.m. July 15, 20, 21 and 29; and 3:30 p.m. July 10, 16 and 30.

» "A Midsummer Night's Dream": Directed by Harry Wong III, opens at 7:30 p.m. July 16, and continues with performances 7:30 p.m. July 22, 27, 28 and 30; and 3:30 p.m. July 17, 23 and 31.

» Where: Ernst Lab Theatre, University of Hawaii at Manoa

» Tickets: $42 season tickets; or for single tickets $18 general, $16 for seniors and military, $14 group rate for 10 or more tickets for one show and for $10 students

» Charge-by-phone: 550-8457; online at www.hawaiishakes.com

The festival opens this weekend with Doyle directing "A Winter's Tale," and he sees several advantages to the change.

"Paliku is such a lovely space that it was tragic to leave it behind, but we had too many people telling us that getting over the mountain was too far to drive, so we thought we'd try it in town for a year or two and see how it goes here," he explained Monday.

Doyle organized the HSF in 2002 as a three-man project with Tony Pisculli, the Po'okela Award-winning stage combat choreographer, and Harry Wong III, artistic director of Kumu Kahua. Summer is traditionally a slow time for theater groups, and with schools out, high school and college students have more time to explore Shakespearean theater.

"Tony, Harry and I have all worked at the Lab before. That's where the three of us trained in a lot of ways, so it's a space that we're all intimately familiar with. ... Also, Terry Knapp just retired, and it's kind of nice that in his retirement year we're at the theater where he directed most of the Shakespeare that's been done in Hawaii for the last 35 to 40 years. In that way it's a homecoming for us."

Another benefit is that the HSF can run for a full five weekends. There is enough overlap in the schedules that all three shows will be running during the middle of the month. On the weekend of the 20th, it will also be possible to see all three shows in two days.

DOYLE IS TAKING the HSF into somewhat unfamiliar territory this year. "A Winter's Tale" is not one of the three or four Shakespearean classics most frequently performed here.

"Terry (Knapp) did it in 1979 at Kennedy (Theatre). There was another smaller production of it about four years ago, but it was done at Orvis (Auditorium). They had a minimal cast, and the day I saw it the actors were still on books, so I don't know if it counts as a full production."

Doyle says "A Winter's Tale" is more popular elsewhere.

"Jim Hesse, who is in my play and also my dramaturge, tells me that it's been the most frequently produced Shakespeare production in London in the last 10 years."

Doyle describes the work as "a lovely play, very moving. I keep referring to 'Field of Dreams' when I talk about it. It's a play about loss and forgiveness."

King Leontes of Sicilia accuses his wife of adultery and banishes the daughter she gives birth to. The infant ends up in Bohemia, is rescued and raised by a shepherd, and years later falls in love with a prince who loves her but is prohibited by law from marrying a commoner.

"You can probably already see where (the story) is going," Doyle says.

"I'm very fortunate this year in that I have Brent Yoshikami as Leontes. He's worked with Harry in the last three shows ... and in the second act I have Jonathan Sypert playing a fascinating character that has an enormous amount of stage time and virtually nothing to do with anything else happening in the rest of the show. It's very bizarre, but he's hilarious.

"In a lot a productions they cut the character (to shorten the running time) but he's such a funny character that I figure there must be a reason he's there, so we're using him."

Even in using Sypert's comic talents, the show's running time is less than that of his epic three-hour 2003 production of "Henry IV--Part 1."

"I like Shakespeare's length. One of the things that I think is interesting about it is the size and the scope of it. But, at the same time, I completely understand that you're asking a lot of an audience to ask them to watch a show for three hours.

"On the other hand, I always feel that audiences deserve to be respected. ... I hope that they'll feel that way about these shows ... and that the time they spend in the theater is time well spent."

PISCULLI PLANS to avoid the traditional approach to Shakespeare with his production of "Romeo and Juliet," which opens July 9.

After presenting all-female productions of "Two Gentlemen of Verona" and "Love's Labors Lost," and exploring "Macbeth" as the story of a man who fears the sexual power of women, Pisculli is looking at Romeo as a guy who, in Doyle's words, is a "kind of destructive force (and) Juliet not being so much of a destructive force, but Romeo's entrance into her life destroys everything."

Music for Pisculli's production will be again be provided by the Damned Spot Drums.

Wong's pick this year is the ever-popular comedy, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," opening on July 16.

"We kind of put some thought into how the three plays related to each other," Doyle says.

"'Romeo and Juliet' starts as a comedy and ends as a tragedy, and 'Winter's Tale' is the opposite. On the other hand, 'Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Winter's Tale' we felt were nice seasonal opposites in some ways, so we took a little time thinking about it. And, of course, once again I picked the obscure play cause that seems to be what I'm attracted to."

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