California Shakespeare Theater will follow up its season opener Titus Andronicus with The Verona Project, a brand-new hybrid of play and concert, inspired in part by Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The world-premiere production, which is written, composed, and directed by nationally-acclaimed director Amanda Dehnert in her Cal Shakes debut, plays at the Bruns Amphitheater, July 6 through July 31.
The Verona Project isn’t just a play. It’s also a band—composed of eight actors playing three times as many instruments, performing a hybrid of theater and rock concert that marries Shakespeare to fairytales to real life, infusing it all with enough joyful exuberance to rock the Bruns Amphitheater to the imaginary rafters.
The story revolves around childhood best friends Proteus and Valentine; Julia, the girl who comes between them; the princely Silvio who complicates everyone’s story; and the truth-seeking, identity-finding, fairytale-twisting path that brings them all together again—not that much older but a whole lot wiser.
“I really love the characters Shakespeare created,” says Dehnert, “and they have inspired me to dive deeper into the various natures of love, loss, and self-discovery. I believe that to love and to lose are inextricably tied together; loving something or someone is perhaps the riskiest and most rewarding thing we can do in the course of our lives, and it’s what can cause us the most pain. The characters in Verona are struggling with the experience of first love, which I think is something we can all connect to. They are also trying to figure out who they are as individuals, and who they want to grow up to become.”
The actor/musician cast members of The Verona Project are all making their Cal Shakes debuts with this production: Arwen Anderson (Love in American Times at San Jose Rep, Tales of the City workshop at A.C.T.) as Julia; Dan Clegg (Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at A.C.T., numerous productions in Montreal including The Rocky Horror Show and Equus) as Proteus; Marisa Duchowny (Tales of the City workshop at A.C.T., Chicago with Prima del Teatro in San Miniato, Italy) as Sylvio’s Mother; Phil Mills (featured principal vocalist at San Francisco Symphony’s A Celebration of Leonard Bernstein; numerous productions for A.C.T.’s MFA program including Macbeth and Hamlet) as Sylvio; Harold Pierce (The Seagull at Marin Theatre Company, plus roles at TheatreFIRST, Impact Theatre, and Shotgun) as Speed; Nate Trinrud (Peter Pan: a Play at Lookingglass, Fly By Night at TheatreWorks) as Valentine, Elena Wright (The Salt Plays: Part I and Part II at Shotgun, Dead Man’s Cell Phone at Sonoma Rep) as Thuria, and Adam Yazbeck (The Kite Runner, The Glass Menagerie at San Jose Rep; The Lion in Winter at Shakespeare Santa Cruz) as the Duke.
The design team includes: Daniel Ostling (set design) who designed last season’s Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing, and who received a Tony nomination for Best Scenic Design for Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses; Melissa Torchia (costume design), making her Cal Shakes debut, having recently completed her Masters in Costume Design from Northwestern University, and who has designed for Lookingglass and Steppenwolf in Chicago; David Cuthbert (lighting design), whose credits include lighting and media designs for San Jose Rep, the Magic, the Old Globe and Arena Stage; and Josh Horvath (music production and sound design), an Artistic Associate at Lookingglass, who has created soundscapes at the Kennedy Center, Long Wharf, Chicago Shakespeare, and Lincoln Center, to name a few. Others on the artistic staff of the production are Associate Artist Domenique Lozano (vocal/text coach); Dave Maier (fight director), Megan Q. Sada (stage manager), and Laxmi Kumaran (assistant stage manager).
Amanda Dehnert is a director, composer, and adapter. Her recent projects include: Julius Caesar and All’s Well That Ends Well (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Peter Pan (A Play) (Lookingglass Theatre Company), which she wrote and directed; Death of a Salesman (Dallas Theatre Center); The Fantasticks (Long Wharf and Arena Stage); and Cabaret (Stratford Shakespeare Festival). She currently serves as an Associate Professor in the theater department at Northwestern University. Prior to that, she taught for the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA program. Ms Dehnert has held various positions with Trinity Rep, culminating with her serving as the Acting Artistic Director for the 2005-2006 season. Productions for Trinity Rep include Cyrano de Bergerac, Henry IV, West Side Story, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Annie, The Skin of Our Teeth, Noises Off, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, My Fair Lady, Othello, Saint Joan, We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!, and A Christmas Carol. As a composer, she has written scores and songs for much of her own work as well as for The Imaginary Invalid, The Cider House Rules, As You Like It, and a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol, co-authored with Oskar Eustis, which premiered in Boston in 2003.
Single tickets for The Verona Project range from $35-$66, with discounts available for seniors, students, persons age 30 and under, and groups. Prices, dates, and artists subject to change. For information or to charge tickets by phone with VISA, MasterCard or American Express, call the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666. Additional information and online ticketing are available at www.calshakes.org.