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Summer Shakespeare Kicks Off in Santa Monica

Call it visceral, stripped-down Shakespeare. Call it high-octane Shakespeare. Call it Bard-by-the-Sea -- and on the tennis court.

It’s Shakespeare Santa Monica, which has launched its Fourth Annual Summer Shakespeare Season at Reed Memorial Park in Santa Monica, featuring three of the Bard’s plays in rep July 13 to 29: “Richard III,” an all-female version of “Taming of the Shrew,” and a one-hour-and-20-minute, outdoor “Twelfth Night.”

Sponsored in part by the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the repertory will once again be performed indoors at the Miles Memorial Playhouse and outdoors at the Tournament Tennis Court #1 in Reed Park. Also supporting the production is Andrew Barrett-Weiss and the Powerhouse Theatre in Santa Monica.

Directed by Louis Scheeder, “Richard III” plays Fridays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 3 p.m. Directed by Randolph Curtis Rand, “Shrew” will play Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Both are at Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd. In Santa Monica’s Reed Memorial Park.

“Twelfth Night,” directed by Vincent Cardinale, plays Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. “Twelfth Night” is performed outdoors at Reed Park’s Tournament Tennis Court #1.

Artistic Director John Farmanesh-Bocca says his Shakespeare festival is set apart from other such festivals in several ways: his productions are highly physical, they come with pedigree and the location is beautiful and unique.

“This will be a visceral, stripped-down Shakespeare,” Farmanesh-Bocca said. “It’s bare stage and we create everything from the body. We fly through the air – literally. It’s a lot of crazy physical work.

“Besides, how many Shakespeare festivals can brag that they pack a tennis court with delighted audiences?” he added.

Farmanesh-Bocca, who has assembled an exciting combination of directors and actors of diverse and dynamic backgrounds from Los Angeles and around the U.S., also says his Shakespeare festival boasts a high number of artists with training at top universities and schools in the United States and England.

A Directing Fellow (2003-05) at The Juilliard School in New York, Farmanesh-Bocca is a graduate of New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing, and has been an actor and director for the past nine years, working on productions all over the globe.

Scheeder, associate artistic director, is founder and director of The Classical Studio at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, former producer at Washington’s Folger Theatre Group, and a director of Off-Broadway and regional theatre productions.

“Culturally, we want to offer L.A. audiences what you get outdoors in New York,” Farmanesh-Bocca said. “We’re saying, ‘We’re near the water, it’s a hot summer night, come see Shakespeare.’”

Shakespeare Santa Monica’s festival audiences have grown each year since the inaugural “Santa Monica Shakespeare Project” in 2004. Audiences have been diverse, ranging in age from 8 to 80 and from all socio-economic backgrounds, Farmanesh-Bocca said.

He said audiences have particularly loved the novelty of the tennis court setting, noting that Shakespeare’s plays were often done on tennis courts among royalty in Elizabethan England. This year, the festival will offer “a quick blast of Shakespeare” on the tennis court, with a stripped-down “Twelfth Night” that comes in at one hour and 20 minutes.

“I came to Santa Monica to fill a niche,” said Farmanesh-Bocca, who divides his time between New York and Santa Monica when he is not on the road directing plays all over the country. “We came on the premise that if you build it, they will come. We’re doing good work and we should be noticed.”

Admission is free for anyone 18 years old and under. Tickets range from $20 to $25, with discounts for students and senior citizens.

Tickets may be purchased by calling (310) 270-3454, by emailing or visiting

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