COURTESY BRAD GODA / HAWAII SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
The Hawaii Shakespeare Festival will present "King John," featuring Todd Coolidge as King John and Maryann Peterson as Lady Blanch.* CLICK FOR LARGE
Delving into the dark side
IN addressing the common theme of "civil wars," Tony Pisculli, in his sixth year as producer of the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival, challenges his actors and directors to look into the darker side of the Bard.
That takes into consideration one of the playwright's more popular romantic comedies, "Taming of the Shrew," which kicks off the festival this week.
HAWAII SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
» Place: The ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave.
» Tickets: $14 to $18; season tickets $42.
» Call: 550-8457 or visit honoluluboxoffice.com
» "Taming of the Shrew": 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 3:30 p.m. Sunday
» "King John": Aug. 15 to 19
» "Titus Andronicus": Aug. 22 to 26
The most well-known adaptation of the combative love story of Kate and Petruchio was the 1967 movie starring real-life (and equally headstrong) couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The HSF production, guest-directed by Linda Johnson, will tone down the comedic aspects.
"This 'Taming' is going to be amazing," said Pisculli. "The two leads (Mark Gilbert and Elizabeth Wolfe) are very strong. He and Liz have this incredible chemistry, so much so that the director changed the concept she had of the play. ...
"It's a very exciting 'Shrew' and an unconventional one. It's usually done as a very broad farce, like a Shakespeare 'Married with Children.' Here, we're exploring how two very strong-willed adults fall deeply in love with each other."
PISCULLI HAS vowed that the annual festival eventually will produce every play Shakespeare wrote. To this point, few historical plays have been done, so this year the festival tackles the rarely staged "King John."
"I don't think it's been done in Hawaii before, and it's not considered to be one of his better plays, in a career spanning some 36 to 37 plays. But I recently had the opportunity to see it staged at Stratford-on-Avon. I was expecting something bad, but it was wonderful and surprisingly funny, with some incredible characters and scenes."
To preserve his claim to the throne, John launches a war against the French, who have allied themselves with his young rival Arthur. But the king's own nobles turn against him when they suspect John of plotting assassination. Pisculli himself is directing "King John," with Todd Coolidge in the title role.
"All of the history plays basically have the same plot. There's some sort of struggle over succession. ... Here, there's a conflict of personalities. John, the youngest brother of Richard the Lion, becomes the successor to the crown when Richard is killed. But Richard's widow, Constance (played by Brooke Jones), is a very strong figure in the play as she thinks her son Arthur should be the new king."
Pisculli promises the audience will feel a part of the battle scenes in "King John." Percussionists Chris Fung and Deborah Masterson of Damned Spot Drums will be adding to that visceral charge.
"Live music adds so much to live theater. ... They've helped with the shaping and refining of our production, and they've given us an incredible atmosphere to play in, so much so that I've worked them into some of the scenes."
The festival will conclude with "Titus Andronicus," another of Shakespeare's previously neglected plays. The play is enjoying a renaissance, thanks to Julie Taymor's Broadway and screen versions called "Titus."
Considered the Bard's "potboiler," the play is "very violent, very bloody," Pisculli said. "But our director Harry Wong sees it as a black comedy, so the violence will be excessive and over-the-top, what with the amputations, rape, mutilation, cannibalism, war, murder and infanticide."
PISCULLI ACKNOWLEDGES that the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival does not present all-ages-suitable productions. A prime example would be the festival's popular offseason stagings of "Femme Capulet," an extreme adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" that takes place in a strip club.
"We're very different in how other theaters around town work. Usually, a season of plays is predetermined, and directors are matched up to them. With us, it's from the bottom up. The directors come in and tell us what plays they want to do."
Pisculli is looking forward to working in The ARTS at Marks Garage for the first time. "We're working in the thrust configuration, where there's a small stage on one end, and the is audience three-quarters around the stage.
"It'll be like Shakespeare done in your living room. We're going to bring the action to you in a way never done before."
Saturday, August 11, 2007
» The photo that ran on Page 15 of the HiLife section yesterday with the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival story is from the production of "King John," featuring Todd Coolidge as King John and Maryann Peterson as Lady Blanch. The caption that ran with that photo was incorrect.