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L.A.'s Independent Shakespeare Co. moving to Griffith Park

April 6, 2010 |  4:04 pm


One of Los Angeles' most popular summer Shakespeare companies is about to get a major venue upgrade.

Since 2004, the Independent Shakespeare Co. (ISC) has performed at Hollywood's Barnsdall Art Park, where it has had to compete with helicopter traffic from neighboring hospitals and other forms of noise pollution.

Starting this summer, the company will make its new home in Griffith Park near the site of the former zoo on the park's east side.

The move will enable the company to accommodate bigger crowds for its free, outdoor productions of Shakespeare's plays. David Melville, the company's managing director, said he hopes to fit in 700 people for each performance, versus Barnsdall's approved capacity of just 485.

ISC estimates it attracted 12,000 people to its productions in Barnsdall last summer. The company often had to turn away people in past seasons, which prompted its search for a new venue.

The residency at Barnsdall has been rocky. At one point, it came close to losing its place on the park's south lawn after inspectors demanded a special permit. The company had to bring in a new stage at great expense to meet their requirements. Melville said that the company has already received approval for the move to Griffith Park, though it still has to go through a permitting process for various technical elements.

In the end, ISC will have to shell out more money to cover costs associated with the bigger digs.

This season, the company expects to spend $180,000, which covers actors' pay, equipment as well as "minimal" rent to the Department of Recreation & Parks.

Last season, the company said it spent $120,000 to produce plays at Barnsdall, which is managed by the city's Cultural Affairs Department.

The nonprofit ISC relies heavily on donations to produce its free plays. The company has a tradition of passing a hat around after performances. It has also received support from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and other local organizations.

In the past, audiences had to make reservations in order to attend performances. Starting this season, the company said it expects that people will be able to turn up without reservations.

The company will produce Shakespeare's "Othello" and "Much Ado About Nothing" this season, which begins July 9. Prior to that, ISC will partner with the Symphony in the Glen for a one-night performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on June 27.

-- David Ng

Photo: Audiences watch an ISC production of Shakespeare's "Henry V." Credit: Ivy Augusta