The Wicked Wilde Shakespeare Festival

Streamlined, gender-bending versions of classic plays are the name of the game in a five-week summer theater festival from the Los Angeles Women' s Shakespeare Company. Longtime fans of the company's all-female explorations of classic texts will be intrigued to discover this festival's inclusion of male actors - although not always in the roles one might expect. Macbeth3, A Tyrant's Tale, The Importance of Being Earnest and Lovers and Madmen will be performed in repertory under the collective title The Wicked Wilde Shakespeare Festival at Santa Monica's Miles Memorial Playhouse, May 29 through June 27.

"This festival is a natural next-level of the work I've been doing for the last year with a core group of very talented actors, both women and men," says company founder and artistic director Lisa Wolpe. "This is a wonderful way to expand our deep and labyrinthian exploration of gender markers, behaviors, and expectations, while sharing with our community the amazing poetry, timeless truths and keen observations contained in these wonderful plays."

Macbeth3 is LAWSC's critically acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. This lean, stripped-down, post-apocalyptic version highlights the play's intensity and breakneck pace, while illuminating both Macbeth's tormented inner life and the tragic consequences of a world at war with itself. Something wicked this way comes - but it's not what you think! In a bleak world of the near future, the few survivors of an apocalypse scrounge for power in a land of sparse resources and sparser humanity. Macbeth, ambitious hero of a recent bloody battle, receives a visitation from Satan, who tells him he is next in line for the crown. How far will Macbeth go to satisfy his lust for power and security? 

A Tyrant's Tale -  Ms. Wolpe's shortened version of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale with only seven actors is a gripping and fantastical one-hour exploration of the nature of leadership, loyalty, and the redemptive power of enduring love. How far will a king go to ensure the loyalty of those closest to him? When does vigilance slip over into paranoia? Believing that his honorable wife has had an affair with his best friend, King Leontes of Sicily becomes possessed of a vengeful rage, silencing and banishing the people who love him the most. 

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is perfect for a summer's night. Starring Los Angeles audience favorite John Achorn as the uproarious Lady Bracknell and four women in the leading roles - including Lisa Wolpe as Jack - this truly gender-bending production highlights the role-playing inherent in courtship and underscores the play's unconventional attitudes towards romance and sexuality. In this hysterical, fast-moving, 75-minute gem, dashing Jack loves lovely Gwendolyn. His best friend, the handsome Algernon, adores the sensational Cecliy. All should be well - except that both men aren't quite as earnest as they seem. Having dreamed up alternate identities for themselves to escape unwanted social obligations, they're now having trouble keeping their multilayered, conflicting stories straight. This masterpiece of manners is a hilariously scathing critique of social hypocrisy, as relevant today as when it was first written in 1895.

Lovers and Madmen is a selection of scenes from Shakespeare performed by an all female, student cast playing both men and women. This "greatest hits" of the Bard will showcase some of Shakespeare's most dauntingly well-known texts, from comic to tragic and back again, and audiences will experience an inverted version of the Elizabethan practice of male actors playing everyone from Coriolanus to Cleopatra. You'll meet some of the murderers, kings, thieves, lovers and clowns whose words have become common parlance in the English-speaking world, all the while deftly exploring the meta-theatrical commentary on gender and sexuality inherent in Shakespeare's writing. The actors: high school and college students being mentored in the various crafts of theater-making during the festival, part of LAWSC's continuing mission to be of service to the greater community. Don't miss this amazing opportunity to contribute to the confidence and growth of the next generation of theater artists, simply by being there! Two performances only.

The Wicked Wilde Shakespeare Festival runs May 29 through June 27 at the The Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90403. Ticket prices are $15 per show or $25 for two shows in one afternoon or evening. A four-show Festival Pass is $40. To purchase tickets and for a detailed Festival schedule, call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006 or go to