Free Shakespeare Live!

Angela Gulner as Blanche and Garret Replogle as Lewis. Photo by Mickey Elliot.
Angela Gulner as Blanche and Garret Replogle as Lewis. Photo by Mickey Elliot.

Shakespeare can be daunting. People will tell me they only go to see the comedies like Midsummer Night’s Dream. They avoid the historical or dramatic plays.

A unique experience in viewing Shakespeare is through Shakespeare by the Sea’s traveling theatre. Sometimes it’s difficult to sit in those tiny seats listening to the King’s English. SBTS sets up a stage in parks in Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange Counties so you can comfortably sit on a blanket and enjoy dinner. Oh and it’s free.

This King John, directed by Stephanie Coltrin is not to be missed because of a drab title. It’s funny, dramatic, of course, and has those characters you hate or annoy you, showing the ugly side of the human condition. Cylan Brown’s, Philip the Bastard, jokes about being of one mother answering Patrick Vest’s (King John) absurd question — “You came not of one mother…” Brown is flippant saying, “and, as I think, one father.” Vest’s King John is offended; odd since he is more offensive in stealing the crown. Nathaniel Weiss as Arthur is relieved he does not get his uncle’s crown; he’s such a cry baby being molly-caudled by his mother Constance played by an engaging Kristina Teves.

Staging and costumes are very important to me because it’s part of the experience. What’s impressive is this stage designed by Aaron Jackson who has to make it easy for the actors to set up and breakdown. Yep, the actors. Sometimes, if you get there early to eat dinner you can watch the stage go up. Everyone involved is having a really good time.

Once set up, the guys practice their sword fighting scene. They look like they are having a lot of fun grunting and putting their bodies into it, jumping from different levels of the stage. Boys will be boys!

There is attention to detail with the costumes by Christa Armendariz, who is a graduate of Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. There are many layers starting with chain mail to vests and quilted jackets.

I don’t want to drone on about the show. I want this blog to be more about behind the scenes matter that editors, well, edit in reviews. And more importantly to talk about what inspires me to start a discussion.

I’ll admit I don’t completely understand Shakespeare, but SBTS makes it palatable. I read a marked up college text I bought at a library book store copyrighted in 1968. The handwritten notes are beautifully penned appearing to be by someone who learned cursive in elementary school. It’s in my best interest to read the play so I can explain it better in my reviews.

Plan a picnic, take a blanket and low-back chairs and check to see if the park allows alcohol. Take some cash for coffee, hot chocolate and SBTS’ two dollar magazine with the synopsis and bios. It all helps with the cost of the production. No matter who you are this is a great place to be. All are welcome at Shakespeare by the Sea.

King John plays through August 9, 2013. To find a show near you go to  and like them on Facebook