Theater: Shake it up

North Bay stages celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare

By David Templeton

You’ve probably heard the Bard news by now. As of last Saturday, April 23, William Shakespeare has been dead for exactly four full centuries. While not a record for certain kings, queens, Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors, it’s definitely a high-water mark for the poet of Stratford-upon-Avon. To be sure, his late 16th century critics would have been shocked to hear that Shakespeare’s plays would still be popular 100 years in the future, let alone 400.

He’s certainly still popular in the North Bay.

“This is so exciting,” says Leslie McCauley, director of Santa Rosa Junior College’s upcoming presentation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. “It’s fun to be doing one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays the way he wrote it,” McCauley says, noting that a cast of men will play all of the roles, including the women. “On top of that, we’re turning the Burbank Auditorium into the Blackfriars Theatre, in London—complete with ‘orange girls.’ It will be very memorable.”

Orange girls? “‘Orange girls’ were women who worked at the theaters selling nuts, oysters and oranges, which were a delicacy,” McCauley says. “Ours will be selling chocolate-covered orange slices. Sadly, we won’t be allowing our audience to relieve themselves in the theater the way they did in Shakespeare’s time.”

It will certainly be a relief to local Shakespeare fans that they needn’t travel to England, or even to Ashland, Oregon—home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, because the Bard’s works will be on full display for the remainder of the spring and summer.

Beginning April 29 at the College of Marin (COM), Shakespeare’s sublime real estate tragedy King Lear will howl, and crack its cheek within the college’s intimate Studio Theatre. Directed by legendary COM educator James Dunn, the story of an aging monarch who divides his kingdom among his three daughters will bring audiences right up into the face of madness and despair. Just the way Shakespeare wanted it.

As for what Marin Shakespeare Company is brewing up for its big quadricentennial celebration, expect elaborate presentations of Lauren Gunderson’s The Taming of the Shrew update, The Taming, along with Shakespeare’s nail-biting soap opera Othello, and yet another variation of Twelfth Night.

Whether or not there will be “orange girls” has yet to be announced.

NOW PLAYING: Find more information about upcoming productions at 707/527-4307 (Santa Rosa Junior College); 415/485-9385 (College of Marin) and marinshakespeare.org (Marin Shakespeare Company).

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