UCI’s New Swan Shakespeare Festival Brings On the Bard

Eli Simon wanted to build a theater. Like, a actually cool theater. He had the money, thanks to funds from a department of excellence award (provided to the UC Irvine dramatization department), also as generous donors. He had the talent; he’s been UC Irvine chancellor’s professor of dramatization for 27 years, also as a professional director and author. He had the suggestion for an intimate, outdoor, moveable, 15-ton, mini-Elizabethan theater.

But could he actually do it?

“Keith Bangs, the Brand-new Swan’s production manager, and I were having among our preliminary meetings at Pei Wei, [talking about] exactly how do we relocate this 15-ton mini-Elizabethan theater, where ought to we set it down, will certainly the Groundlings seats work, and so forth,” Simon recalls. “I opened my fortune cookie, and it said, ‘Build your theater; the audience is waiting.’

The weird sisters or Ladera Ranch girls at HB's fire pits?

New Swan Shakespeare Festival

The weird sisters or Ladera Ranch girls at HB’s fire pits?


New Swan Shakespeare Festival at Brand-new Swan Theater, on Inner Ring Road, Irvine, (949) 824-6614; www.newswanshakespeare.com. The shows play in repertory, so call or visit website for dates and times. Through Aug. 30. $25-$50.

“I nearly fell off my seat,” Simon continues. “We decided, right after that and there, that we were being provided a clear authorize from the gods of fortune cookies and theater and that we ought to go forward along with our crazy vision.”

The Brand-new Swan Theater is an eye-catching marvel currently stationed on the UCI campus simply west of Langson Library. And it’s house to the Brand-new Swan Shakespeare Festival, now in its fourth summer season. Under Simon’s artistic direction, the festival offers two productions: Much Ado Concerning Nothing and Macbeth.

“It was born of the impulse to produce an intimate space in which we could investigate and perform Shakespearean plays while remaining in fairly close contact along with the audience,” Simon says. “It’s actually as straightforward as that. The Brand-new Swan Theater itself is the central element that makes our festival special.”

A three-degree cylinder earned of steel and wood, the theater seats up to 130 in 5 areas, including the floor (where the groundlings, i.e., the unsophisticated, rowdy, drunken rabble, that now swarm Concerning downtown Fullerton on a weekend break night, sat throughout Shakespeare’s time—and I say this as a Fullerton resident and sometimes-bartender) and a balcony. The actors are seldom a lot more compared to a couple of feet away from any sort of seat.

The configuration creates an intense, immersive experience. And the method the business approaches its productions (last year’s Twelfth Night and this year’s Macbeth rank among the most effective neighborhood Shakespeare shows these jaded eyes have actually witnessed over the past twenty years) magnifies that experience. “We didn’t hope to create declamatory, stuffy productions,” Simon says. “We wanted the audience to have the ability to sense the actors’ brains whirring and to feel emotions as they arise. We wanted actors to have the ability to take their asides and thoughts straight to the audience, very compared to throwing them out to some unknown put above the footlights. There’s a synergy that is developed in the Brand-new Swan Theater. The actors feel it, and so does the audience. My target is to sustain everyone happy in that space, whether you’re onstage or you’re in the residence watching the action unfold. So far, it appears to be working.”

The combination of that aesthetic approach, along along with the naked truth that the actors (professionals and students, many of whom are alums of the dramatization department or current graduate and undergraduate students) are trained in Shakespeare and regulate to make nearly every line intelligible, makes the shows the 2 entertaining and accessible, also as remarkably real to the most effective thing Concerning the Bard: his language. “We seek to tell the story as clearly as feasible devoid of resorting to theatrical tricks,” Simon says. “We set the plays—one tragedy and one comedy each year—in the time and put that makes many sense to us. If it should stay period, we’ll leave it in Shakespeare’s time, Yet many of our plays thus far have actually been modernized to the 20th century and beyond.”

Shakespeare’s language is unaltered, Yet the plays are edited so that each act runs an hr or less. “In the long and short run, it’s Concerning the acting,” Simon says. “People locate our actors understandable and compelling. I’ve figured out that a smaller, tighter, highly talented business is the method to go. Our actors appear in the 2 shows. That keeps them challenged, and [many of our audience members] attend the 2 shows to see the means in which the business members shift from comedy to tragedy on successive nights. . . . It took me four months to cast the ensemble this year, and I was tearing my hair out for many of that period of time. It was worth the wait.”

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