Shakespeare by the Sea

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Shakespeare by the Sea returns to Newport Beach this summer offering 2 free performances at Bonita Canyon Sports Park.

Gloucester (Patrick Vest) and Lear (David Graham) in Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of The Tragedy of King Lear directed by Stephanie Coltrin. — Photo by Mickey Elliot.

On July 9, audiences will be treated to “King Lear”  “a supreme masterpiece and a triumph of dramatic imagination. The following evening, July 10, “Much Ado About Nothing” – “a classic romantic comedy about the battle of the sexes” will be performed.

Both performances begin at 7 p.m., but people are encouraged to come early and bring a picnic dinner.

The stage is raised and the audience is on a flat grassy area; low beach chairs and blankets are best.  The temperature drops quite a bit between the beginning and end of the evening, so be sure to pack extra blankets and jackets.

All shows are kept to 2 hours with an intermission.  Performing an abbreviated version is a must as many of Shakespeare’s unabridged plays would be a three and a half or four hour production.

Lisa Coffi, founder and producing artistic director for Shakespeare by the Sea, said that is just too long for the outdoor settings.

Coffi grew up in Sacramento with Shakespeare in the Park each summer. As a teen and young woman, she performed and was very involved in all aspects of the productions.  When she moved to Redondo Beach, she missed her Shakespearean summers.

“The closest one was at least an hour away. I was going to have to drive an hour so I just made one,” she said. “I recreated my youth.”

Cladio (Jerrod Popham) and Beatrice (Kimberly Patterson) in Shakespeare by the Sea’s 2011 production of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Amy Louise Sebelius. — Photo by Mickey Elliot.

This year, they will hit 21 cities across the state.  It costs roughly $13,000 to bring two shows to each location and the non-profit organization relies on donations, community partnerships, and city subsidies.

“Newport Beach City Arts Commission is able to offer a portion of what we need,” Coffi said.  Adding, “Jana Barbier (Cultural Arts Coordinator at City of Newport Beach) has my eternal thanks for championing SBTS for the past 11 years.”

Coffi points out, that even with help from the city and corporate sponsors, there is still a financial gap that must be filled to keep the tradition of offering Shakespeare to everyone for free each summer.

“While the shows are free to watch, [they] are not free to produce,” Coffi said.

The biggest thing people can do to ensure that Shakespeare by the Sea continues to make a stop in Newport Beach each summer is to donate.

“Every little bit helps,” said Coffi.

Benedick (David Jay Barry) in in Shakespeare by the Sea’s 2011 production of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Amy Louise Sebelius. — Photo by Mickey Elliot.

Audience members have an opportunity to make a donation the evening of the performances.

They can also help by buying $5 raffle tickets to win prizes, or purchasing hot chocolate, and pre-wrapped sweets from the concessions stand.  There are also blankets and sweatshirts for sale.

Coffi argues that the money collected for ticket sales would just accrue more costs such as paying a staff to support a box office, manage ticketing, and erecting a fence at each venue.

In addition, Coffi never wants to limit their audiences to only those who can afford it.

Coffi is adamant about is keeping Shakespeare by the Sea free for all who attend and says that selling tickets to the show would become a logistical hassle and change the entire experience for audience members.

Just coming and enjoying without reservations or having to purchase tickets is part of the magic each summer.

What: Shakespeare by the Sea

Where: Newport Beach: Bonita Canyon Sports Park – at Bonita Canyon Dr and Mesa View

When: Saturday, July 9 – 7pm – “King Lear”

Sunday, July 10 – 7pm – “Much Ado About Nothing”

For more information:

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