Old Globe’s summer Shakespeare Festival is back with a trio of classics
By Diana Saenger
Shakespeare has his fans even more than 400 years since he began his prolific writing career. Many of those fans anxiously await the arrival of the annual Old Globe’s Shakespeare Festival. This year’s offerings include the Tony Award-winning Best Play “Amadeus.” The story of a man known as a musical genius who finds himself the target of jealous rage by composer Antonio Salieri, also won the Academy Award for Best Film.
Comedy buffs will enjoy of the bard’s most popular farce, “Much Ado About Nothing.” What could be more fun then the battle of an arrogant, confirmed bachelor and his squabbling partner … or their opposites, two lovebirds who seem perfect until someone shows up to spoil everything. “The Tempest,” Shakespeare’s last and beloved masterpiece, focuses on the human condition and what happens when love meets revenge. How a magician marooned on a desert island reacts when he’s about to be discovered by his enemies unfolds with humor, romance and charm … and maybe a little bit of redemption along the way.
Actor Jay Whittaker returns to the festival as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in “Amadeus” and Don John in “Much Ado About Nothing.” He received the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Craig Noel Award for his work in last year’s productions of “King Lear,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and “The Madness of George III.”
Because Whittaker had little experience with musicals, he said he dove into preparation when offered the part of Amadeus by director Adrian Noble.
“I got a piano teacher, learned to read music, studied Mozart’s life, and began reading music theory books,” Whittaker said. “But once I read the script, I realized that the character in the play is the essence of Mozart’s spirit, not the historical Mozart, and that all the research I did got in my way, so I let it all go. That was a lot more fun.”
Whittaker said there have been eight versions of “Amadeus” written and Peter Shaffer wrote this version after the 1984 movie came out. “This one has a different ending from the movie; the messenger is not Salieri, and Mozart’s father is also not a part.”
In “Much Ado About Nothing,” Whittaker takes on the role of villain Don John who wants to break up the romance between Hero and Claudio.
“It’s fun to play a villain,” he said. “But Don John is not a complex villain, so I have to find what makes him real. He announces at the beginning of the play, ‘I’m evil, I’m angry, and I want to hurt people,’ so it can be challenging because you really want to make him grounded at some point. But Ron Daniels (director) has a very specific vision for this production. He’s really playing down the comedy to find the truth of the story.”
While “Amadeus” features traditional music, Whittaker said the music for “The Tempest” was written especially for this production and is very exciting. He credits the Old Globe for its “outstanding efforts” with the Shakespeare productions.
“They do things right by bringing in experienced actors and directors and making them happy by treating them with respect and giving the directors what they need.” Whittaker said. “Deirdre Clancy’s costumes for ‘Much Ado’ are probably the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen — and I haven’t even seen the ones for ‘Amadeus’ yet.”
If you go
What: “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Tempest” now to Sept. 25; “Amadeus” now to Sept. 22
Where: The Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Contact: (619) 23-GLOBE
Globe to honor Audrey Geisel at gala
The Old Globe will honor Audrey Geisel of La Jolla for her many contributions to the theater at its annual gala Saturday, July 30, co-chaired by Darlene Shiley and Sheryl White.
The black-tie event begins with a reception and silent auction in Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden at 6 p.m. followed by a performance of “Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein,” starring Hershey Felder, on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage in the Old Globe Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center.
After the show, there will be dinner and dancing on the Globe’s Copley Plaza with music by Impulse.
Tickets (through Eileen Prisby at (619) 231-1941, ext. 2303 or email@example.com) are $750 or $1,000 for VIP seating. Underwriting opportunities begin at $4,500 and include a pre-gala Underwriting Party at the Rancho Santa Fe home of Dr. and Mrs. Andrew Viterbi on July 18.
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