To Be or Not To Be? LA's Independent Shakespeare Co. Explores Alternatives After Canceling Their Summer Festival

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The Independent Shakespeare Co. has been producing Shakespeare plays at Griffith Park for 17 years. More than 43,000 people attend the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival productions each summer. But this year the season was cancelled due to health concerns over coronavirus. 

ISC artistic director Melissa Chalsma says they have been working closely with the LA Department of Recreation and Parks to ensure they are making the right decisions for the health and safety of the audience, cast and crew.

“In looking at all the health data they realized they were not able to plan programming at least through August,” Chalsma explains. “And that aligned with what we were thinking as well.

Independent Shakespeare Co.
ISC is exploring alternative ways to perform after canceling the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival.

Chalsma says ISC was planning to perform their first production of King Lear. But that, along with their production of As You Like It will be moved to the summer 2021 season. She says they are looking for ways to keep Shakespeare alive in LA by going virtual.

“Instead of having people come to the park, we’re going to bring the festival to their homes. And we’ll try to have something that feels equivalent to our park experience. We’ll have our family workshops online and some of our guest speakers come online.”

But, fear not, Chalsma says. They are also hoping to have some sort of physical performance in place by the end of summer. ISC is working out the possibility of a Shakespeare drive-in, using social distancing requirements from city officials.


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“If we can we will have a limited number of live audiences and live stream to the rest of the audience,” Chalsma explains. “And we’re looking at doing Shakespeare in the parking lot, instead of Shakespeare in the park. We’re modeling it on drive-in movie theaters.”

ISC is a non-profit organization. Chalsma says they had to cancel their yearly fundraiser as well and are hoping those who would have attended and supported them with financial donations in person, will continue to do so online. While they iron out the details of what the virtual Shakespeare experience will look like, they will continue sharing Shakespeare on their social media channels and website,

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