In-Your-Face Theater

Hawaii’s Shakespearean innovators take their show downtown.

August is traditionally the slow season for the arts, but the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival knows that the sweltering end of summer is the perfect time to chill out with the Bard.

photos courtesy of the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival

Now entering its sixth season, the festival has built a reputation for fresh takes on the world’s most famous playwright, from all-male or all-female casts to punk versions of Shakespearean fairy tales. Producers plan to stage every one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays before they’re through—no repeats—to give local audiences a chance to see works that have rarely been performed here.

This season brings a move from UH Manoa’s Earle Ernst Lab Theatre to The ARTS at Marks Garage in Chinatown. The versatile ARTS space allows set designers to construct the stage and seating from scratch, recreating the bold thrust-style stage configuration favored by England’s Royal Shakespeare Co.

The setup will look “like a runway, with the audience wrapped all the way around,” says director and founding member Tony Pisculli. “I’d been watching a lot of Shakespeare in London and Stratford, and the productions that were staged that way were just so much more exciting and dynamic. It’s going to be in-your-face theater.”

The intimate venue also means far fewer seats for each of the season’s three plays, which will run in a short, sharp three-week succession. You know what that means: Get this hot summer ticket while you can.

Shake up your evening routine with these modern takes on the classics:

>> Instead of: dinner and a movie for a date
Try: The Taming of the Shrew, Aug. 8-12. Directed by Linda Johnson, this well-loved, razor-tongued romantic comedy shows who really wears the pants in the family.

>> Instead of: CNN
Try: King John, Aug. 15-19. The subtle take on politics, religion, war and regime change is famous for being the least-performed of Shakespeare’s plays. We agree it’s ripe for a revival. Tony Pisculli directs.

>> Instead of: Grand Theft Auto
Try: Titus Andronicus, Aug. 22-26. Don’t take Grandma to this one—unless she liked Reservoir Dogs. Heads roll and limbs fly in this no-guts-no-glory revenge tragedy, directed by Harry Wong III.