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‘Shakespeare’ stays by the sea

Shakespeare by the Sea returns to Newport for 10th season with two classic comedies, despite financial difficulties for the organization.

July 30, 2009|By Candice Baker

“The little foolery that wise men have makes a great show.”

“As You Like It”

Despite the slings and arrows of an outrageous economy, Shakespeare by the Sea is returning for its 10th season of performances in Newport Beach this weekend, presenting two different comedies two nights in a row.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost,” to be performed Saturday, is thought of as one of Shakespeare’s more highbrow comedies. It tells the tale of the King of Navarre and his male friends, who precipitately decide to forego the company of women for three years — just prior to the arrival of the Princess of France and her ladies.

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In “As You Like It,” slated for Sunday evening, a nobleman and his family are banished to the Forest of Arden in France, quickly followed by other family members, a clown named Touchstone and others seeking refuge.

There are several romantic relationships established in this topsy-turvy land, where “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

Seating at the Bonita Canyon Sports Park shows is on a first-come, first-served basis. Blankets or low chairs are recommended, as is a picnic dinner.

Each show is about two hours, including a short intermission in the middle of the play.

“I chose two comedies this season because of the economic downturn,” the company’s artistic director, Lisa Coffi, said. “Who’s not tired of the doom and gloom in the news, on the radio, et cetera? I figured we could all use a good laugh, so [I] chose two shows that were sure to be crowd-pleasers.”

Earlier this year, the city of Rancho Palos Verdes had to pull all of its arts funding, including funds earmarked for its annual Shakespeare by the Sea performance.

The show was saved by Malaga Bank, which gave enough funds to keep the play.

However, the recession also has seen the city of Irvine having to cancel its planned Shakespeare by the Sea performances, meaning increased crowds are expected at Shakespeare by the Sea’s other Orange County engagements.

“The recession has had a huge impact on our organization. It’s quite depressing,” Coffi said.

Corporate giving is down one-third from last year, Coffi said, and individual gifts also are on the decline.

She cut more than $100,000 from this year’s budget immediately after returning from a conference in January where theaters on a fiscal-year cycle told of their woes.

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