Shakespeare on the Bluff Puts Spotlight on Sonnets

LMU COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION AND FINE ARTS | Now in its fourth year, Shakespeare on the Bluff has established a strong reputation and built a loyal audience on the Westchester campus and in Playa Vista. While the pandemic presented the company with challenges, adapting to conditions has sparked creativity and invigorated the productions.

For the second and final show of the virtual 2021 festival, the Shakespeare on the Bluff company, comprising faculty, students, alumni and friends, has hit on a novel idea: performing Shakespeare’s sonnets. CFA Dean Bryant Keith Alexander suggested looking beyond the plays for the last performance of the summer season, leading Kevin Wetmore, professor of theatre arts and artistic director of Shakespeare on the Bluff, to the 14-line gems, each a story unto itself. The free event will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 23. Register here for the performance.

“I invited students, alumni, faculty, and friends to consider performing one and we have 24 people performing 25 sonnets,” said Wetmore. “The whole thing runs about 45 minutes or so. We’re treating each sonnet as an individual play, so the audience is not just watching a poetry reading on Zoom; you’re watching 25 very, very short plays.”

Like the ancient troupes of yore, that moved from town to town and adapted their productions to the local conditions, Shakespeare on the Bluff’s company made the most of their virtual circumstances. The Theatre Arts program has spent a year and a half experimenting with online performance, which has taught the professors and students a good deal about visual storytelling and live performance. What is missing, said Wetmore, is presence, the interactions between players, and between players and audience.

“Make no mistake: I think we have made a virtue of online performance this year, and our students have certainly learned a good deal about camera acting and interacting with another performer through the computer,” said Wetmore. “With Shakespeare on the Bluff last year, and “She Kills Monsters” last fall, we’ve even learned how to do stage combat with the fighters in two separate physical locations, united only by the ‘Zoom room’ and the screen. Those lessons alone have proved invaluable.”

Looking ahead, Shakespeare on the Bluff will present its fifth season in its new home, the Drollinger Family Stage going up in Lawton Plaza. “We could not be more excited about the Drollinger Family Stage on campus next summer for our first time back on campus after two years of online Shakespeare,” said Wetmore. He plans to stage “The Tempest” and “Richard II,” which he expects will thrill and delight the audiences, under the stars, on the bluff.

What would a Shakespeare company be without their hats in their hands? Please consider supporting this enriching endeavor by designating a gift of any size to CFA’s Shakespeare on the Bluff. Generous support of patrons will allow the festival to continue to keep this tradition free and open to all. Give here.