Dek : Intrepid Shakespeare Company presents a series of free readings
It’s cool, it’s classic and it’s free.
Intrepid Shakespeare Company, Encinitas’ first resident professional theater troupe, is presenting its second series of free readings of Shakespeare plays. This time, they’re going beyond the Bard, offering a modern classic by Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter.
“Our first year of free readings was such a success,” says Intrepid co-founder Sean Cox, “we couldn’t wait to bring the experience to our hometown. We want everyone to see what we offer: approachable, accessible, intimate theater.”
“This program accomplishes three things,” says Cox’s co-founder, Christy Yael. “It allows us to work on plays without mounting a full production. It allows accomplished actors who don’t normally work on Shakespeare to get that opportunity. And it gives us the opportunity to present readings free to the public.”
These aren’t your typical readings, with actors holding scripts balanced on music stands. Well, they are holding scripts. But there’s a lot more going on.
“It’s a huge difference from a regular reading,” explains Yael. “Entrances, exits and interactions make it easier for audiences to understand, especially with Shakespeare, where there are so many characters.”
Two of the inaugural readings gave rise to fully staged productions: “King John,” which was last year’s finest Intrepid production, and “Richard II,” coming up next spring.
Written in 1995, “Betrayal” was inspired by Pinter’s seven-year affair with a BBC reporter. It has a thrilling structure of reverse chronology, working backward in time, exposing a boatload of dishonesty and self-deception, hypocrisy and hidden feelings.
“’Cymbeline’ is a great play,” Cox avers, “a roller coaster of action, with terrific characters and one of few [Shakespeare] histories with a wonderful, strong female lead.”
When English king Cymbeline hears of the secret marriage of his daughter, Imogen , he banishes her new husband, who flees to Rome . There, a cynic bets him that he can cause the young bride to be unfaithful. All manner of subterfuge, cross-dressing, near-murder and mayhem ensue, before all’s well and ends well.
“The Merchant of Venice ”
“At the end of this play,” says Yael, “you may not know whether you’ve seen a tragedy, a comedy, a love story or a tale of hate.”
“Merchant” is considered one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays.” The title refers to the merchant Antonio , not the Jewish moneylender Shylock, who is the play’s most prominent and most famous/infamous character. Because of its racial slurs and anti-Semitic overtones, some think the play should be shelved and forgotten. Yael and Cox are having none of it.
“Shakespeare is the greatest humanist who ever lived,” asserts Yael. “In ‘Merchant,’ there are no simple political conclusions. We believe that the brilliance of Shakespeare is his ability to write fully dimensional and complex characters; that’s one of the keys to the accessibility and longevity of his plays.”
To Yael, these readings provide a rare opportunity for audiences. “Like sitting in on a dress rehearsal. There’s an element that anything can happen.”
“It’s perfect for us,” Cox adds. “We’re a text-based company. We always want the playwright to be the star of the evening.”
Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s Free Will series of free public readings runs on Monday nights: November 8 (“Pinter’s “Betrayal”), November 22 (“Cymbeline”) and December 6 (“The Merchant of Venice”).
Performances begin at 7:30pm in the Community Room of the Encinitas Library. www.intrepidshakespeare.com