Every summer, Shakespeare productions appear at outdoor venues across the country, and LA hosts the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival. Currently, one of the playwright’s bloodiest and best-known tragedies, “Macbeth,” runs at the park Wednesday through Sunday nights until September 4.
The festival is in its 19th year at Griffith Park, says Melissa Chalsma, artistic director of the Independent Shakespeare Company. But one thing is different this time around: they’re performing in a new, more secluded area of the park.
“We are in this intimate little corner where you are surrounded by the trees and this little valley. And it lends itself so perfectly to “Macbeth.” And we just really wanted to embrace the environment,” Chalsma told KCRW. “The setting you see is the hill, and the actors come out of the trees, down the slope and out of the darkness. And it works really, really perfectly to build that intimacy.
Kalean Ung, who plays Lady Macbeth, explains that the company has been waiting since March 2020 to stage this show. She says getting back into the role, especially on the outside, is the best way to experience Shakespeare.
“I like to think of the audience as just an extension of me. And even though it’s several meters in front of me, I’m holding them. And so I’m just extending my energy to them. And what’s really wonderful, is that we start in daylight at 7 p.m., and I can have them as confidants and talk to them. And as the sun goes down, I share more and more intimate moments, as this piece continues until my end,” says Ung.
Diversity is central to the concerns of the Independent Shakespeare Company. Chalsma says it’s because theaters have a responsibility to reflect their communities, both on stage and among the production crew.
“Shakespeare is so fantastic to begin with. It’s written in verse and it’s about… heightened and fantastical elements. And so you’re really able to cast pretty wide. And I think that’s actually a moral imperative, especially in a community like Los Angeles,” says Chalsma. “We are truly an independent Shakespeare company that wants to have a positive impact on our community, not only through the art we create, but also the way we create that art. .”