Shakespeare Under the Moon

Dress rehearsal of Mackbeth

Dress rehearsal of Mackbeth

Not everyone can peer out of their living room window and see Lady Macbeth plotting with Macbeth on their neighbor’s front lawn. However, if you live on Wish Street in Encino, California’s San Fernando Valley, you can enjoy Macbeth or Taming of the Shrew this summer without having to leave home. The dress rehearsals for this summer’s two productions of the INDEPENDant Player’s Shakespeare Under the Moon are taking place on the front lawn of one of the actors.

Shakespeare Under the Moon is one of more than 20 groups that are performing the bard’s plays outdoors throughout Southern California. Most are performed in parks, although Shakespeare in the Vines performs in a Temecula vineyard and winery, and Shakespeare in the Cemetery, whose productions are temporarily suspended due to financial difficulties, performs in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Shakespeare Under the Moon strives to bring classical Shakespeare to communities of all sizes around California. It is the only California Shakespearean company that takes its productions on the road. This summer they will perform in diverse towns as Twenty-Nine Palms, Redwood City, Pismo Beach, Ridgecrest and Paso Robles. In addition, they invite local aspiring actors and actresses to apply to be part of the production in their home town.

On the night of the first dress rehearsal we carry our lawn chairs around the corner and down the block. As we find a spot on the grassy parking strip, three performers in their plaids practice a dueling scene. In the driveway, one of the witches finishes assembling her costume before she dons her rubber mask with its exaggerated nose and chin.

A technician finishes his beer and begins adjusting the color lighting disks, while scanning the script for his lighting cues. “I haven’t read Macbeth since high school,” he tells his assistant.

“Ten minutes to start,” shouts one of the actors, who also appears to be directing the operations. He also lives at the Wish Street house where the stage is set up on the front lawn.

One of the actors walks out of the open garage carrying a big pail with red goo. “Must be their supply of blood,” my son BJ comments.

“When shall we three meet again. In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” shrieks one of the witches as they slither across the street behind us and onto the sidewalk next to where we sit. A man and woman from the neighborhood out walking their dog stop to watch. Fog billows out from under the platform. And immediately we become involved in Shakespeare’s poetic, yet brutal, dialogue, set in Duncan’s palace in Forres, at the northern tip of Scotland – where my great-grandfather had a jewelry business – and Macbeth’s castle in Inverness.

“I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry,” Lady Macbeth tells Macbeth after he kills Duncan and has Banquo, whom he views as a threat, murdered. The wispy clouds over the house turn the orange-red of a southwest summer sky as dusk creeps in. A breeze rustles in the neighbors trees lending a foreboding ambiance as Macbeth walks from behind a partition, his hands covered with Duncan’s blood.

Before we know it, someone behind the stage yells, “Intermission.” We wish we could stay to see the second half; however, I have a flight to catch the next morning and need to pack.

As we walk down the street we ponder the age-old question of Macbeth: is the story one of despair, or of hope? While the answer always remains the interpretation of each audience member, we decide it is hopeful that the neighbors on Wish Street have the opportunity to be part of the story in their own front yards.

4 thoughts on “Shakespeare Under the Moon

  1. Hey there!!

    We’re glad you were able to catch the first half of Macbeth, and thanks for your wonderful blog about what we do!!!
    Curious if you’d be willing to help us out with an article for the LA Times… me if you are!!! We’d love your help and appreciate your support!

  2. Thank you Brad, for adding Shakespeare in the Vines to your article. It is absolutely amazing producing wonderful Shakespearean theatre in the ambiance of the vineyards, under the moon and stars with award winning wines and box dinners to delight in. I would love it if you might consider a feature article for us some day. i’d be delighted to have you and a guest as our guest, so how about taking a trip out to beautiful Temecula Valley?

    Best to you,
    Sheila Ryle
    Artistic Director/Founder
    Shakespeare in the Vines

  3. Sheila, Brad is the Founder and Artistic Director of Shakespeare Under the Moon. The article was written by Judy Liddell. Perhaps next summer on my trip to CA I can visit Temecula and write about your production. It sounds delightful.

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