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This season traces an amazing arc from late medieval times through to the present day. We begin with Don Quixote, the most famous jewel from the Spanish Golden Age, adapted for Cal Shakes by one of America’s most important playwrights, Octavio Solis, under the new title, Quixote Nuevo. Solis (who adapted John Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven for Cal Shakes in our 2009 season) re-situates Don Quixote on the Mexican border, as Quixote, near the end of his life, looks back at the ideals and loves that have inspired him, portraying the very human quest to search all one’s life for a “nugget” of truth, or beauty, or joyousness, or innocence, that is barely remembered. We then move to Everybody, adapted by MacArthur genius Branden Jacobs-Jenkins from Everyman, originally an anonymously-authored late medieval play about the search for the most vital tool that a human being needs to take en route to “the great mystery.” In Jacobs-Jenkins’ hands, this is a play filled with surprise, poignancy and humor. In our final slot of the season we will stage a third adaptation, The War of the Roses, drawn from Shakespeare’s history plays. As a young man of under 30, and to huge public acclaim in the London theaters, Shakespeare wrote the Henry VI plays that we now know, together with Richard III, as his “minor tetralogy.” These plays about the saintly Henry VI and the conspirators who surround him, followed by the villainously attractive figure of Richard III, flesh out some of Shakespeare’s richest questions about how we mortal beings manage the threats, the temptations, the passions, the losses, that inevitably come with power.
Dr. Philippa Kelly, Resident Dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater, is also a professor and author. Her 2010 book, The King and I, a meditation on Australian culture through the lens of King Lear, garnered international praise in its very personal examination of themes of abandonment, loss, and humor).