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"Shakespeare as it should be. OST is hammering out a new tradition...first rate entertainment."

- Orlando Weekly

Plays and Events

18th Season (2006 - 2007)

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Peter Rabbit King Lear
Into the Woods Crime and Punishment
Frankenstein Really Rosie
Miss Nelson Has a Field Day PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays
Every Christmas Story Ever Told The Merry Wives of Windsor

June 17 - July 23, 2006

Book by Rosemarie Gerould
Adapted from the book by Beatrix Potter

As a literary international favorite having sold over 150 million copies in 35 languages, this delightful adaptation of the classic tale features Peter and his furry pals guiding children toward a gleeful path of fun, friendship and awesome behavior

Peter Rabbit
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Margeson Theater

- Wed - Fri: 10:30 a.m.

- Sat:. 2 p.m. & 4 p.m.

- Sun.: 4:30 p.m.

No 4:30 p.m. show on Saturday, 6/17.

Darden Foundation

Preview Video
Coming Soon
Dramatis Personae

- Peter: Brandon Roberts
- RK Possum: Alea Figueroa
- Charlene Skunk: Meggin Weaver
- Mother Rabbit: Kristin Collins
- Farmer Mac: Jason Horne

Production Team

- Director: Patrick Flick
- Set Designer: Robbin Watts
- Lighting Designer: Amy Hadley
- Costume Designer: Denise Warner
- Sound Designer: Ryan Peavey
- Stage Manager: Jamie Mykins
- Asst. Stage Manager: Nicole Peters

*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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September 13 - October 8, 2006

Book by James Lapine
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

One of Sondheim's most popular works, this delightful Tony Award-winning musical weaves the tales of Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, the Baker and his Wife, the Wolf, and the Giant and the Witch into one rich tapestry of music, love, laughter and the thrill of going into the woods.

Into the Woods

Exuberant, Terrific, Lovely
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

Look at Into the Woods, the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's exuberant musical revival, as a personality test. If the happy-go-lucky first act is up your alley, then this benign introduction to the musicals of Stephen Sondheim may be all you need to know. But if the deeper and more devastating second act is more to your liking, then there's a whole world of Sondheim waiting for you.

In this musical based on mostly familiar fairy tales, Sondheim and librettist James Lapine play bait and switch: They get you hooked on the frivolous first act, and then happily-after-after turns out to be way more than you thought. Fortunately, the Shakespeare Festival's production hits on both counts, with frivolity enough for the most frivolous in the audience and a deep and emotional catharsis for everybody else...its pizzazz and its passion will take you far.

Choose almost any of the characters in this interweaving of tales mostly spawned by the brothers Grimm, and you'll find a treasure - an adorably goofy Jack of beanstalk fame (Robby Sharpe), a plucky and enlightened Cinderella (Tracy Ganem), a ferocious Little Red Riding Hood (Melissa Mason). Add the made-up story of the forlorn Baker (T. Robert Pigott) and his intrepid wife (Heather Lea Charles), who are so desperate to have a child that they find themselves willing to do whatever it takes.

Into the Woods takes its crowd-pleasing seriously in its long first act, when Sondheim and Lapine weave their stories until the characters are nearly all one big, sort-of happy family. There's plenty of whimsy to carry you along through the elaborate story-telling: The Baker loses his parents in a baking accident, a cow named Milky White (Liam Scahill) develops a fondness for the audience and a Mysterious Man (a wacky Kristian Truelsen) appears at opportune moments to confuse the characters all the more.

But comic confusion is all there is until the story turns dark, and it's this much-needed darkness that makes Into the Woods worth its while. The production is blessed with a mostly terrific cast of principals, from Sharpe's dim-witted, loose-limbed Jack and Mason's vehement Little Red to the two extravagant princes - Cinderella's (David Jachin Kelly, reminiscent of Kevin Kline at his dopiest) and Rapunzel's (Ariel Heller, hilariously overdramatic).

Ganem makes an expressive Cinderella and sings a lovely version of one of Sondheim's loveliest ballads, "No One Is Alone." Thursday Farrar finds a measure of comedy in the witch...And Pigott and Charles are a winsome couple as the baker and his wife - Charles brave and comically down-to-earth, Pigott the show's anguished heart .Truelsen and Anne Hering (as Jack's fed-up mother) are both swell in supporting roles...Into the Woods is about wishing and getting what you wished for, about self-interest and community. That pretty much covers life.

OSF Brilliantly Spins Sondheim's Fairy Tale

Orlando-UCF Shakespeare opens its new season with a spectacular, complex and challenging production of Stephen Sondheim's symbolic pseudo-fairy tale, Into the Woods. The woods are wild, but that's where we must venture to grow and find answers.

The story begins with the stereotypical quests that fill Mother Goose and Le Morte D'Arthur. A curse dooms the Baker (T. Robert Pigott) and his wife (Heather Lea Charles) to a childless life until the neighboring Witch (Thursday Farrar) reveals the complicated recipe for successful impregnation. The curse derives from the Baker's father, who deflowered the Witch's garden years ago. Now the Baker must collect a blood-red cape, hair yellow as corn and a golden slipper from a girl whose mother is a living tree, then run all this through a milky-white cow. This nice mix of pagan and Christian rituals fertilizes the Bakers and returns the Witch to her youth while stripping her of supernatural power.

The quests of Jack for wealth, Cinderella for social status and Little Red Riding Hood for vengeance all turn to ashes, as they've now eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and been cast from the idyll of innocence into the struggle of adult life. Even the Narrator (Kristian Truelsen) dies, leaving behind the Mysterious Man. Alone and facing an attack by giants, everyone must find their own way as authority not only cannot be trusted but no longer even exists. It's all pure Joseph Campbell, though it's not essential to understand the academian's theories on mythology and culture in order to enjoy this brilliant production.

There are nearly two dozen fairy tale characters in constant motion, led by the Witch and her LED-powered magic staff. When she loses the warts, she loses the supernatural powers, but she MIGHT still get ahead on looks alone. As Pigott's boyish charm makes the Baker's desire for fatherhood sincere, it also makes his fall into sin even more shocking. He does get a charming duet with his wife, "It Takes Two," which is a highlight of the show, as well as the pivot that points us from the playroom to the boardroom.

Another strong performance comes from Robby Sharpe as Jack, who sings quite well for a simple-minded cowherd, and the audience loved his best friend, Milky White, the nonspeaking pantomime cow played by the uncredited Liam Scahill. Exceedingly tall Kristian Truelsen was impish and engaging as Narrator and Mysterious Man, and Melissa Mason stomps around emphatically as prissy Little Red Riding Hood.

As with most Sondheim shows, the music is well-written but requires concentrated thought to follow. Songs really do serve the plot rather than tickle the ear, but the best number by far was "Agony," sung by the two princes of irresponsible imperial government, Ariel Heller and David Kelley. The second-act musical high point came with "Your Fault," a classic paean to finger-pointing rendered by Jack, the Baker, LRRH, the Witch and Cinderella.

Rolling trees and moody lighting from designers Bert Scott and Joseph Oshry give the audience something to look at during the occasional set shifts, and the Giant's arm crashing down in the second act was a fun surprise. There's even a big laugh when the Wolf (Steven Lane) gets disemboweled and LRRH and her grandmother crawl out of the entrails.

With its mix of Christian and pagan motifs, Broadway music and folk tales, this lesson on adulthood isn't just for grown-ups. Behind each story is an entire world of morals and values. No matter how happy you are ever after, come Monday you have to get up, put on a tie and act nice.

Where's the magic in that?

Fairytale Favorites Sparkle in Musical

This complete story in Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" is rarely expressed as clearly as it is in Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's captivating and crisp production. Before the lights dim, you see a bounty of beautiful fall leaves hanging like a bough along the top of a dark forest. The setting imparts a sense of peace and serenity. In fact, you can barely keep your eyes off Bert Scott's sumptuous design.

The musical begins and a community of fairy tale characters appear in Rebecca Baygents Turk's bevy of color-saturated costumes. Living at the edge of the woods, they sing how they "wish, more than anything, more than life," for a particular dream to come true so they can live happily ever after. Cinderella wants to go to the ball. The baker's wife wants a baby. The witch wants to become beautiful again.

But with minor keys rising into jarring crescendo in Sondheim's haunting music and lyrics, you know there will be an edge to these wishes come true. Yes, the wolf will have his belly filled with stones, and Cinderella's stepsisters will have their eyes plucked out by birds, but the edge gets sharper still.

Directed by Patrick Flick, the libretto and lyrics sparkle with humor and insight. He exploits his talented cast's natural comic mannerisms, juxtaposing them to moments of poignancy. And he gives the audience a nice theatrical surprise in a scene with the wolf dressed up as Granny.

Robby Sharpe is a cartoony joy as Jack. With his carrot-colored hair flouncing on the top of his head like some bizarre question mark, Sharpe cajoles his wondrous upstaging cow, Milky White, to move along toward the woods where they meet the baker who, in turns, gives Jack magic beans for the cow. Melissa Mason puts an appealingly nasty spin on Little Red Ridinghood. She doesn't merely move across the stage, she skips and prances and poses just so, all the while gobbling cookies and spurning the advances of the wolf.

Although portraying shallow and egotistical princely brothers, Ariel Heller and David Jachin Kelley manage to get the biggest laughs in their over-the-top schtick in "Agony," where they bemoan their fate of being in love. As the witch, Thursday Farrar finds a great well of humor and infuses her role with lyrical rhythm. She also delivers emotion as she implores her daughter, Rapunzel, to heed her motherly warnings in the song "Stay With Me." Rapunzel would have done well to do that, for the serene beauty of the woods soon becomes a setting for danger, filled with giants.

Faced with obstacles, the silly, self-centered characters begin revealing ignoble traits. They become liars, thieves and murderers. It's a bad ending for most of the characters. In fact, few survive. Yet push the story further, as done successfully with OSF's production, and a deeper truth is revealed: Reality is better than fantasy. Yes, "Into the Woods" has many funny moments, but what makes it resonant are characters confronting terror, death and sadness. They don't all get what they thought they wanted. But the ones who abide find a surprising peace and harmony.

In the end, it's winter. A soft snow falls. Characters shift. They form new alliances and understand what acceptance means. Life goes on. As they sing in the unforgettable refrain, "You are not alone, no one is alone." That sentiment remains with you long after the final curtain, proving the power of theater well done.

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Margeson Theater

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Sept. 13 & Thursday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 2 p.m.
AmSouth Bank Signature Series
Bright House Networks
Turner Construction
Greenberg Traurig LLP
Preview Video
Coming Soon
Dramatis Personae
- Narrator/Mysterious Man: Kristian Truelsen*
- Cinderella: Tracy Ganem*
- Jack: Robby Sharpe*
- Jack's Mother: Anne Hering*
- The Baker: T. Robert Pigott*
- The Baker's Wife: Heather Lea Charles*
- Cinderella's Stepmother: Lynne Wieneke*
- Little Red Ridinghood: Melissa Mason
- Florinda/Rapunzel: Mary Candler
- Lucinda: Trista Duval
- Cinderella's Father: Ron Zarr
- The Witch: Thursday Farrar*
- Cinderella's Mother/ Granny: Lisa Schwanger
- Wolf/Steward: Steven Lane
- Cinderella's Prince: David Kelley*
- Rapunzel's Prince: Ariel Heller
- Snow White: Beth Brown
- Sleeping Beauty: Emily Satterfield
- Cow: Liam Scahill
- Giant (Voice Over): Trista Duval

- Flute/Clarinet: Elise Curran
- Clarinet/Bassoon: Erik Cole
- Trumpet: Ben Classon
- Cello: Laurel Slanton
- Percussion: Chris Nolan
- Piano: Charles Johnson

Production Team
- Director: Patrick Flick
- Music Director: Charles Johnson
- Scenic Designer: Bert Scott **
- Lighting Designer: Joseph Oshry**
- Costume Designer: Rebecca Baygents Turk
- Sound Designer: Matthew Given
- Stage Manager: Amy Nicole Davis*
- Assistant Stage Manager: Adrienne Feldman
- Run Crew: Andrea Moss
- Light Board Operator: Natassie Jimenez
- Sound Engineer: Samuel Finken
- SFX Operator: Gina Yolangelo
- Microphone Wrangler: Amy Hadley
- Dresser: Gina River, Rebecca Hamlin
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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October 11 - November 29, 2006

By Jim Helsinger
From the novel by Mary Shelley

Just in time for Halloween, the Festival brings back one of the best-attended productions after an eight year hiatus. This one-man gothic thriller was praised by the Orlando Sentinel as, "Gripping, powerful...frightening." The Orlando Weekly raved, "Impressive...brilliantly executed...a monster smash! Don't miss it!"


An Acting Tour de Force That Absolutely Should Not Be Missed

Jean-Louis Barrault, the great French actor, director and impresario, once said that one actor alone on a stage is enough to create theater — if necessary, total theater. Rarely has this dictum been more gratifyingly confirmed than in the Orlando Shakespeare Festival's current production of Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus, a theatrical adaptation of Mary Shelley's supernatural novel of scientific ambition gone awry. In this impressive and literate stage version of the Gothic yarn, adapted by Festival artistic director Jim Helsinger, only one actor, Steve Patterson, appears on stage to tell the totality of the sad and distressing story of vanity and remorse. And he does so through the minds, bodies and souls of its three main characters — the ambitious seafarer and would-be discoverer Capt. Robert Walton; the proud and compulsive, but ultimately contrite and broken scientist, Victor Frankenstein; and, most magnificently, the lonely and despised monster, a childishly sympathetic and innocent being made from the rotting vestiges of charnel house corpses and graveyard remains. Moving briskly from one deft portrayal to another, Patterson weaves this tale-within-a-tale-within-a-tale with a control that is nothing short of masterful. Director April Dawn Gladu has inspired him to shape exceedingly well-drawn interpretations, combining physical and vocal renderings that are both precise and moving. And while his portraits of the story's smaller roles offer comic relief, it's his commanding renditions of the play's three protagonists that fill the evening with its dazzling theatrical power. It's an acting tour de force that absolutely should not be missed. Gladu has also coaxed the best from her design team, who provide a gloomily atmospheric environment in which to present this Halloween season's most beguiling saga. Bob Phillips' set of spars, masts, chains, netting, cargo boxes and tattered pieces of sail makes for a chilling and utterly desolate evocation of a frozen and unforgiving seascape. Eric Haugen has never painted a more artful display of light, color and shadow, altering the play's changing moods and temperatures with style and effectiveness. Sound designer James Cleveland has concocted a disturbingly beautiful soundtrack filled with somber musical motifs atop the resonance of Arctic storms and churning seas. While the premise of Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus, is hopelessly unconvincing — two creatures, one human and one profane, chasing one another on sleds across the floes of an ice-covered wasteland — the combined effect of Shelley's imaginative narrative, Helsinger's erudite adaptation, Gladu's perceptive direction and Patterson's phenomenal performance is one of total belief and total immersion in the doomed lives of its damned characters. It is a true experience of total theater. Barrault would have been proud.
"Frankenstein" a Monster Hit!


Preview of Review:

"The Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival lets loose with yet another brilliant production. This one is Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus. It stars the amazing actor, Steven Patterson. This is art, folks. Engrossing, entertaining and imbued with meaning. More next week in a proper review in FLORIDA TODAY."

Full Review:

The fall of man continues.  That issue is explored with stunning emotion and intellect in, believe it or not, the dramatic retelling of Mary Shelley's romantic novel, Frankenstein.

Here, on the small stage at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival presents a frightening glimpse into the ramifications of pride in Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus.

Written by the festivals talented artistic director Jim Helsinger, the one-man play looks at the terrible toll of hubris. He does this by putting three men, all powerfully portrayed by Steven Patterson, on what they think is a path toward paradise.

In the story, Capt. Robert Walton has set out on an expedition to the frozen Arctic and says he has found pa in this country of eternal light. Dr. Frankenstein believes bringing people back from the dead would be the source of true wisdom, health and happiness. And the Creature believes acceptance by just one human being would fill his lonely, sad soul with meaning.

But their quests turn into hell: Dr. Frankenstein loses everything; robs himself to be wise enough to realize his responsibility in life is not to follow his own selfish dream. Instead, he says, it is his duty to my fellow beings.

Yes, this is tightly crafted writing, imbued with resonant theme. But, oh my, the artistic performance by Patterson will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Superb Monologue Provides the Chills, While Stage Crew Provides the Thrills
Michael Freeman, LAKELAND LEDGER

... Frankenstein's enduring appeal is amply demonstrated by the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's decision to revive Shelley's tale in a play that even uses her original title, "Frankenstein -- The Modern Prometheus." It's one of several recent examples of a director going back to the roots of Shelley's story -- Kenneth Branaugh's 1994 movie version did the same thing. But whereas Branaugh's movie, which he starred in with Robert DeNiro, featured a huge cast, lavish sets and extravagant special effects, the play does something else entirely: it employs one actor, alone on the stage. And the results, frankly, are stunning, and far more impressive than the movie.

The play was written by Jim Helsinger, the theater's artistic director. It reminds audiences that Shelley wrote her tale as a series of letters, mainly from Robert Walton, captain of a ship stuck in the ice near the Arctic Circle, to his sister back home. Walton described how they witnessed a huge creature move across the ice, despite the fact that the ship is in the middle of nowhere, and then a smaller, older man chasing him. The older man, now dying, is rescued by the ship's crew. That man, the German scientist Victor Frankenstein, finally tells the captain the sad and scary tale of how he found himself pursuing the creature across the frozen land, hoping to finally kill it and reverse the terrible mistake he made in bringing it to life.

Steven Patterson plays all the roles, including Walton, Victor and the creature. If it sounds dull watching one man stand on stage, speaking in a manner designed to imitate someone verbalizing the contents of a letter, you're way off. "Frankenstein -- The Modern Prometheus" is a great example of what this very creative theater company can do. They pulled a similar hat trick with their recent production of "Robinson Crusoe," so I went in with fairly high expectations and definitely didn't feel disappointed.

There are actually four stars in the show. One is Patterson, who does a wonderfully imaginative job bringing the characters to life. He does this with unique changes in his voice, from the Yankee Capt. Waldon to the Germanic Dr. Frankenstein, to the low guttural moan of the creature as it learns to speak. His body language is just as impressive, from the dashing sea captain to the weak, dying scientist, who then becomes an energetic young student obsessed with the concept of reanimating the dead. Patterson provides a real tour de force as he commands the stage.

The other stars include Bob Phillips, who created an eerie set that has the interior of the ship lost at sea; Eric Haugen, who provides some startling lighting effects as the doctor brings his creation to life; and James Cleveland, who is equally effective in creating dramatic sound effects to heighten the performance. There are some stunning, unforgettable moments, including when the ship crashes against huge blocks of ice, causing Waldon to tumble over; and when Dr. Frankenstein confronts his angry creation. Thanks to some great lighting effects, Patterson is able to effectively perform as both the scientist and the creature, even as he remains standing virtually motionless.

It's easy most times to forget the vital contributions that the theater's crew makes behind the scenes, particularly when you have a performer as talented as Patterson dominating the stage. But in this case, it's the cumulative effect of the entire crews' contributions that make this show so effective. In the spirit of Halloween, it would be hard to find better thrills than the ones provided by this very gifted actor and an equally talented stage crew. It's scary how good this one is.

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Goldman Theater

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Oct. 11 & Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesday, Oct. 18 & Nov. 22 at 2 p.m.


Preview Video
Coming Soon
Dramatis Personae

- Captain Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, Doctor Krempe, Henri Clerval, The Creature, Old Man: Steven Patterson*

Production Team
- Director: April-Dawn Gladu
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Eric T. Haugen**
- Costume Designer: Denise R. Warner
- Sound Designer: James Cleveland
- Stage Manager: Amy Nicole Davis*
- Assistant Stage Manager: Stacy Norwood
- Vocal Coach: Ginny Kopf
- Movement Coach: Eric Zivot
- Dresser: William Curry
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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October 21 - November 18, 2006

Adapted by Joan Cushing
Based on the book by Harry Allard

As a follow-up to last season's Miss Nelson is Missing which the Orlando Sentinel called "...terrific theater for kids...a stitch...simply fun," the notorious Miss Viola Swamp reappears at the Horace B. Smedley School, this time to shape up their Tornadoes football team who are the worst in the state. It's up to the "meanest substitute teacher in the world" to turn them around

Miss Nelson

Miss Nelson Scores a Touchdown!
Rebecca Swain Vadnie, ORLANDO SENTINEL

Think your favorite football team is bad? There isn't an NFL squad out there that can compare to the awfulness of the Horace N. Smedley Elementary School Tornadoes. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a pro score a touchdown for the other team?

It's up to fearsome substitute teacher Miss Viola Swamp to save the team -- and the school -- from finishing last in Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, produced by the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival Darden Theater for Young People and directed by Katrina Ploof. A new cast and director aptly pick up the reins from last year's production of Miss Nelson Is Missing. This sort-of sequel is filled with the kind of silly fun that kids enjoy, an interactive mix of poppy musical numbers and grade-school humor.

Hapless Coach Anderson (Sam Hazell) tries to inspire his wayward trio of football players (Ariel Heller, Blake Sims and Chris McIntyre) but only ends up inspiring them to Three Stooges-like antics. Fortunately, kindhearted Miss Nelson (Janine Klein) knows what to do. Enter her secret alter ego, the supremely scary Viola Swamp.

The deliciously mean substitute teacher soon has the team running laps and high-stepping through drills. Cheered on by the cafeteria lady (Trista Duval) and one lone if superperky cheerleader (Mary Candler), the team reforms its wayward plays and makes it to the right side of the end -zone.

There isn't a whole lot of substance at the heart of this brisk 50-minute show. The plot is slight, and some songs in Miss Nelson seem like filler (albeit fun filler). What makes it entertaining is the cheery way Ploof and her likable cast approach things -- there is a bright sensibility to the production that shows even when the football team is at its worst. The production also invites young audience members to join in with cheers and preshow entertainment.

So never mind Miss Viola Swamp and her ever-present ruler -- no one will rap your knuckles for talking during this class.

Showtimes Sponsors

Margeson Theater

- Sat:. 2 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.

- Sun.: 4:30 p.m.

No 4:30 p.m. show on Saturday, 10/21.

Darden Foundation

Preview Video
Coming Soon
Dramatis Personae

- Miss Nelson/Coach Viola Swamp: Janine Klein
- Coach Armstrong/Principle Blandsworth: Sam Hazell
- Kenny: Ariel Heller
- Daniel: Blake Sims
- Patrick: Chris McIntyre
- Lauren: Mary Candler
- The Cafeteria Lady: Trista Duval

Production Team
- Director: Katrina Ploof
- Music Director: Charles Johnson
- Choreographer: N/A
- Scenic Designer: Robin Watts
- Lighting Designer: Amy Hadley
- Costume Designer: Mel Barger
- Sound Designer: Adam Smith
- Stage Manager: Nicole Peters
- Assistant Stage Managers: Adreinne Feldman, Emily Satterfield
- Sound Engineer: Amy Hadley
- Dresser: Tammy Kopko
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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November 29 - December 24, 2006

By Michael Carleton, John Alvarez, and Jim Fitzgerald

Back by popular demand, the demented yuletide tales are back, packed with fresh bits and a new special ‘Nutcracker Ballet'! "Behold and giggle," the Orlando Sentinel proclaimed. Florida Today said, "The show has a treasure trove of comic bits," and Talkin' Broadway called it "Pure holiday gold!"

Peter Rabbit
Reviews from the 2005 Production

"Hilarious... The play accomplishes the small miracle of making all Christmas myths seem both utterly ridiculous and absolutely essential...You can have your fruitcake and eat it, too." - ORLANDO WEEKLY

"A winner...Like a fruitcake, Every Christmas Story Ever Told can hit you like a ton of bricks...It's a Wonderful Life will never look quite the same again." - ORLANDO SENTINEL

"Hie ye to the Orlando Shakespeare Festival, where three talented actors are making mincemeat pie of Christmas traditions with a gaudy confection of a show that will have you laughing harder than spiked egg nog." - THEOTHERORLANDO.COM

"Shout for Joy! OSF's Every Christmas Story Ever Told is pure holiday gold!" - TALKINBROADWAY.COM

Showtimes Sponsors

Margeson Theater

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Nov. 29 & Thursday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesday, Dec. 20 at 2 p.m.

Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed
Harriett Lake

Preview Video
Dramatis Personae

- Jim: Timothy Williams*
- John: Mark Lainer*
- Michael: Rob Maiter*

Production Team
- Director: Jim Helsinger*
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Eric T. Haugen**
- Costume Designer: Kristina Tollefson**
- Assistant Costume Designer: Harmony McChesney
- Sound Designer: Britt Sandusky
- Stage Manager: Angi Weiss-Brandt*
- Assistant Stage Managers: Adrienne Feldman, Emily Satterfield
- Sound Board Operator: Ariel Heller
- Light Board Operator: Chris McIntyre
- Wardrobe: Gina Yolango
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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January 10 - February 4, 2007

By William Shakespeare

This epic masterpiece tells the tale of a king whose demand for his daughters' flattery shatters his kingdom, his family, and his own soul. Lear explores the most basic questions of human existence, destiny, love and duty, friendship and betrayal, leadership and loyalty, the terrors of aging and the overwhelming inevitability of a life nearing its end.

Peter Rabbit

A Lear that Hits Home
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

When Jonathan Epstein's King Lear sits on his throne, his Fool (Jim Ireland) nestles at his feet like an overgrown puppy. Lear ruffles his Fool's hair as he would a devoted grandchild. When the Fool counsels him, Lear listens.

That poignant connection between king and courtier, father figure and son figure, companions and friends, is at the heart of the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's King Lear, Shakespeare's most powerful tragedy. Just as Lear shows that bond with his jester, so too do the actors in this production connect with their audience. The result is a Lear that hits home in the most elemental of ways.

The festival was right to shy away from Lear for most of its 17-year history: This play, as Epstein has pointed out, calls out for more than a few good actors, and it also demands an audience mature enough to hear what it has to say. But now the festival has built that company. If you can judge by its reaction on opening night, the festival's audience is ready for whatever horror -- and whatever compassion -- Shakespeare could devise.

All of that and much more is in King Lear, the story of a foolish old man who demands adulation and then suffers most profoundly when his loved ones don't see things his way. Lear is more interested in proving his own absolute power than in tending to the cares and needs of his fellow men and women. Only when he is thrust into a world of want can he see other humans for what they are.

It's a grand, bleak story, told starkly in the festival's Margeson Theater by a cast in muted, timeless costumes of browns, burgundies and blacks. The set consists of a series of bare wooden platforms, all of it overshadowed by three wooden arches that call to mind no less an image than that of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. There Lear asks his three daughters to declare their love for him, and there the two eldest, Goneril and Regan, answer him in superlatives too grand to be believed. But Cordelia, his favorite, insists on being honest: She knows that no one can quantify love, and she suffers her father's instant wrath.

Only when Goneril and Regan take over Lear's kingdom, and he himself is cast out into the wilderness, does he begin, much too late, to see what being human is all about.

Director Paul Barnes, an experienced hand at the venerable Oregon Shakespeare Festival and elsewhere, has led his 18-member ensemble to get to the heart of Lear's story, and the outcome is a period-dress production that feels new. Such actors as Eric Hissom (as the duplicitous Edmund) and Steven Patterson (as the blunt Kent) are speaking Shakespearean English, of course, but they speak it so matter-of-factly that it sounds modern and colloquial. There's no mistaking what they and their colleagues are saying; better yet, there's no mistaking what they mean and what they feel.

Barnes also renders the horror of Lear's story so plainly that there's no ducking its punch. The gore in Shakespeare's drama can seem almost comical, like a two-bit production of the lesser drama Titus Andronicus or a stage rendition of Evil Dead 2. At the Shakespeare Festival, there's no mistaking the bloody fate of Gloucester, Lear's counterpart in age, and the blows that befall other characters certainly result in blood. But the telling is so matter-of-fact that it averts melodrama: The blood you see feels real.

There's good work across the board from the cast members, some of whom are familiar to festival-goers and some of whom are new to Orlando. Anne Hering and Catherine Stork make a repugnant pair of sisters as Goneril and Regan -- Hering the more sweetly conniving and Stork the more severe of the two. Brittany Morgan is a straightforward Cordelia; Christopher Pearson Neiss makes an honest Albany, husband to Goneril and Stephan Jones finds an element of smugness in Regan's husband, the nasty Cornwall.

Patterson, the hardened Cassius in last season's Julius Caesar, shows the decency and loyalty in Kent, and Eric Zivot, a glorious Malvolio in 2005's Twelfth Night, is moving as old Gloucester, whose story parallels Lear's own. David Mann makes a lucid, level-headed Edgar, the son of Gloucester who disguises himself as a madman to watch over his banished king. Hissom turns Edmund, Edgar's bastard brother, into a model of relaxed villainy, and Ireland is beautifully sweet and clear-sighted as the Fool.

It's Epstein, though, who holds this production in the palm of his hand: From the moment his body begins to fail him, his eyes blaze with light. Epstein's Lear is an old man afraid of losing everything he has, but afraid most of all of losing his mind. Still, there's a will of fire inside him that keeps him going, even when his wits falter. When he regain his senses -- or gains them, perhaps, for the first time -- he's absolutely grounded, absolutely sane and wise.

There's nothing kingly about Epstein's Lear: He's just a man, and so are all his cohorts in this plain-spoken production. No wonder an absolute quiet among the audience greets this Lear at play's end. With a story this plain, all you can do is think -- and feel.

Heart-wrenching, dysfunctional drama 'King Lear' packs punch

There is a sense we have of "King Lear," Shakespeare's most riveting and poignant tragedy. We know the terrain will be emotionally rugged and Lear's fate agonizingly brutal. Our hearts ache when Lear learns too late that the child he spurned, Cordelia, is the only one of his three daughters who love him.

We picture the desolation, both physical and mental, that Lear enters into, accompanied only by his Fool, a man so much wiser than the king he serves. It is a pitiful sight. Indeed, it is all about the emotion.

And to those who understand the drama in advance, the emotion is delivered at the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's production, directed by Paul Barnes, formerly with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. But if you have to struggle with the multi-layered plot and wide array of characters, all informed by individual goals and motivation, your confusion may interfere with the payoff.

Certainly, the bleak landscape cultivated by pride is palpable from the beginning, thanks to Bob Phillips' formalistic setting and Eric Haugen's gloomy lighting.

A wooden platform grows out of craggy rocks and detritus of the earth. It sweeps up toward a barren landscape. At the end of the platform are three towering wooden gates at different heights. The symbolism is unmistakable: They are the three crosses of sacrifice.

It is Lear's selfish pride and his need for love that exact the sacrifice of his three daughters. Intent on dividing his land among them, he asks which one loves him the most.

Anne Hering is an icy wonder as daughter Goneril, pursing her lips into perfect disdain of her father's slovenly troops. Catherine Stork is fiery as Regan, a bloodthirsty daughter who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

Dignified and gentle, Brittany Morgan brings nobility to Cordelia, the daughter who truly loves her aged father but who is disowned because she refused to play Lear's game.

Although Lear's prideful demand is one small moment in time, it ends up as his undoing. Without his family, the symbol of his home, Lear is left, quite literally, to the elements of an unforgiving nature.

As Lear, Jonathan Epstein is, simply, marvelous. He delivers a powerful, heart-wrenching portrayal of Lear's descent into "nothing" (a recurring motif in the first act). When, in the second half, Lear challenges the coming storm to "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!" we see him moving closer to the cliff of his own mental and emotional decay. Dressed in rags and with a crown of weeds, he sinks closer to earthly elements, where he is inexorably heading.

His Fool (a fittingly melancholy Jimmy Ireland, who disappears all too unceremoniously) stays with him. Where he once seemed a pet to scratch behind the ears, or a playmate with whom to spar, the Fool now protects his king.

After roaming around the craggy hills, Lear is rescued by Cordelia and brought back to his senses. But this poignant reconciliation comes too late.

In a parallel story of parent/child betrayal, Edmund tricks his father, Gloucester, into disowning his legitimate son, Edgar. Later, accused of treason, Gloucester has his eyes gouged out in a chilling, bloody, mad-dog scene with Regan and her husband, Cornwall (the talented but underused Stephen Jones).

A crystal-clear Shakespearean actor, Eric Hissom is at his deliciously evil best as bad boy Edmund. Eric Zivot and David Mann, as Gloucester and Edgar, bring a moving tenderness to one of the production's most endearing scenes. The acting here is top-notch. The visuals and sound are, as always, splendid....

Showtimes Sponsors

Margeson Theater

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Jan. 10 & Thursday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m.

Keating & Schlitt
National Endowment for the Arts: Shakespeare in American Communities

Preview Video
Dramatis Personae

- Lear: Jonathan Epstein*
- Gloucester: Eric Zivot*
- Edmund: Eric Hissom*
- Kent/Kent as Caius: Steven Patterson*
- The Fool: Jim Ireland*
- Edgar/Poor Tom: David Mann*
- Goneril: Anne Hering*
- Cornwall: Stephen Jones*
- Regan: Catherine Stork
- Oswald: Donté Bonner
- Albany: Christopher Pearson Neiss*
- Cordelia: Brittany Morgan
- Ensemble/King of France/Servant to Cornwall/Officer: Ariel Heller
- Ensemble/Duke of Burgandy/Servant to Cornwall/French Attendant/Soldier: Christopher McIntyre
- Ensemble/Soldier/Attendant to Lear/Gloucester's Tenant/French Attendant/Soldier: Blake Logan
- Ensemble/Soldier/Attendant to Lear/Gloucester's Tenant/French Attendant/Soldier/Curan: Vandit -Bhatt
- Ensemble/Soldier/Attendant to Lear/Doctor/Servant to Gloucester: Matthew Harris
- Ensemble/Soldier/Attendant to Lear: Liam Scahill

Production Team
- Director: Paul Barnes***
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Eric T. Haugen**
- Costume Designer: Lisa Zinni**
- Sound Designer: Matthew Given
- Stage Manager: Amy Nicole Davis*
- Assistant Stage Managers: Adrienne Feldman & Stacy Norwood
- Light Board Operator: Gina Rivera
- Sound Board Operator: Sarai Gosey
- Wardrobe: Kay Gilliland & Gina Yolango
- Wigs: Barry Lee
- Fight Captain: Christopher McIntyre
- Fight Choreographer: Jim Helsinger
- Vocal Coach: Robin Olsen
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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February 7 - March 18, 2007

Adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus
From the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

After received standing room only audiences at last season's PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays, we are proud to present the full premiere of this chilling new adaptation of Dostoyevsky's famous novel. An intimate psychological drama and spiritual journey which seeks to unveil hidden dimensions of the human and social condition.

Crime and Punishment

"Not liking this play's acting and staging seems a crime worth punishing...gripping and stimulating piece of theater...crams a surprising amount of good stuff into its 90-minute length. Few scenes demonstrate Williams' incredible range more powerfully than Raskolnikov's vivid description of a tormented dream he had about a weak and suffering horse being beaten by its impatient master."

"There is much to admire in the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival's production...Director Jim Helsinger has used an arsenal of tricks gleaned from the Festival's gothic-horror tales to lead his audience into the desperate world of the criminal. Eric T. Haugen's eerie lighting isolates Raskolnikov in a hell of his own making, an unsettling series of dreary rooms designed by Bob Phillips' off-kilter walls."

"The set is sparse and menacing with scrims and lighting taking us through this almost cubist telling of the story. Williams combines innocence and a cocksure conviction he's right and invincible..."
- Carl Gauze, INK 19

"Its many intersecting plot lines fall into one haltingly austere story of a thoughtless murder perpetrated by a reckless young man with nothing left to lose. Three very adept actors play Crime and Punishment characters...Williams, in particular, gives a solid performance, hitting the mark...

Showtimes Sponsors

Goldman Theater

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, Feb. 7 & Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesday, Feb. 28 & March 14 at 2 p.m.


Preview Video
Dramatis Personae

- Sonia: Beth Brown
- Raskolnokov: Timothy Williams
- Porfiry: Dan McCleary

Production Team
- Director: Jim Helsinger
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Eric T. Haugen**
- Costume Designer: Kristina Tollefson**
- Sound Designer: Jim Helsinger
- Stage Manager: Amy Nicole Davis*
- Assistant Stage Manager: Emily Satterfield
- Light Board Operator: Kay Gilliland
- Wardrobe: Gina Yolango
- Dramaturgy: Blake Logan
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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February 17 - March 24, 2007

Book and lyrics by Maurice Sendak
Music by Carole King

Rosie appears larger than life to her friends (but mostly to herself) and creates imaginary scenes for movies and adventures. This children's musical features a delightful menagerie of songs by Carole King (Chicken Soup with Rice, Alligators All Around, Really Rosie and more) that is sure to have you reminiscing of your own childhood friends and games

Peter Rabbit
Showtimes Sponsors

Margeson Theater

- Sat:. 2 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.

- Sun.: 4:30 p.m.

No 4:30 p.m. show on Saturday, 2/17.

Darden Foundation

Preview Video
Coming Soon
Dramatis Personae

Coming Soon

Production Team
Coming Soon
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists

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February 23 - March 4, 2007

PlayFest is a ten day theatre event packed with dynamic new plays and new play programming for anyone who loves great theatre! Buy a PlayFest button and step into the interactive theatrical maelstrom of readings, workshops, world premieres, seminars, master classes and more!

Our mission is to celebrate and cultivate new plays, nurture new playwrights, attract new local and national audiences, introduce the community to new theatrical voices, and provide a marketplace for local and national theatre professionals.

Of last season's PlayFest, the Orlando Sentinel hailed, "Something promising has come out of PlayFest...and it's something that is likely to shape Orlando's theater scene for years to come."

Peter Rabbit
Showtimes Sponsors & Patrons
PlayFest Button: $5
You must have button to get into any PlayFest Event
Workshops: $8
Readings: $3

Play in a Day -- A Benefit for PlayFest! - $5
Master Class with Theresa Rebeck $100
Fringe 101 and 102 with Orlando Fringe
Festival Artistic Director Beth Marshall $10 (per class)

Sponsored by Harriett Lake

Gordon and Susan Arkin
Sig and Marilyn Goldman
John and Rita Lowndes
Ken and Trisha Margeson
Albert and Lisa Prast

Full Productions

Crime and Punishment
Adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus
From the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Directed by Jim Helsinger

February 7 -- March 18, 2007
Goldman Theater

After receiving standing room only audiences at last season's PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays, we are proud to present the full premiere of this chilling new adaptation of Dostoyevsky's famous novel. An intimate psychological drama and spiritual journey which seeks to unveil hidden dimensions of the human and social condition.

Crime and Punishment
Keynote Address

Saturday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m.

About Theresa Rebeck
We are proud to welcome Ms. Rebeck as our Keynote speaker for PlayFest 2007. Her past New York productions include The Water's Edge, Spike Heels, Loose Knit and The Family of Mann at Second Stage; Bad Dates and The Butterfly Collection at Playwrights Horizons; and View of the Dome at New York Theatre Workshop. Omnium Gatherum (co-written with Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize) was featured at the Humana Festival 2003, and had a commercial run at the Variety Arts. Her play The Scene, produced at the Humana Festival in March of 2006, will be seen at Second Stage as part of the 2006-2007 season. Her work has been widely produced both regionally and internationally. She is currently working on commissions from Playwrights' Horizons, Denver Theatre Center, and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

In television, Ms. Rebeck has written for Dream On, Brooklyn Bridge, L.A. Law, Maximum Bob, First Wave, Third Watch, and NYPD Blue, where she also worked as a producer. Produced features include Harriet the Spy, Gossip, and the independent feature Sunday on the Rocks. Awards include the Mystery Writer's of America's Edgar Award, the Writer's Guild of America award for Episodic Drama, the Hispanic Images Imagen Award, and the Peabody, all for her work on NYPD Blue. She has been a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn prize twice, won the National Theatre Conference Award (for The Family of Mann), and was awarded the William Inge New Voices Playwriting Award in 2003. Ms. Rebeck holds a PhD. from Brandeis University in Victorian Melodrama. She and her husband Jess Lynn have two children, Cooper and Cleo.


Master Class in Playwriting
by Theresa Rebeck

Saturday, February 24 at Noon
Studio B
Ms. Rebeck shares her experience. Nothing to prepare - just show up with your questions for one of American Theatre's most produced authors!

Fringe 101 & 102
with Orlando International Fringe Festival Artistic Director, Beth Marshall

Fringe 101 - How to Produce your Fringe Show
Sunday, February 25 at 10 a.m.
Patron's Room

Fringe 102 - Touring your Fringe Show
Sunday, March 4 at 10 a.m.
Patron's Room

Workshops - $8

China -- The Whole Enchilada
By Mark Brown
Music by Paul Mirkovich

Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring Brad DePlanche, Eric Hissom & Philip Nolen

Saturday, February 24 at 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 25 at 3:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 at 12:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 at 8:00 p.m.

The Complete History of China and THEN some. Hilarious new comedy by that master of mayhem, Mark Brown. Mr. Brown's previous PlayFest achievements include Around the World in 80 Days and The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge!


The Stone Face
By Sherry MacDonald

Directed by Dan McCleary
Starring Jason Flora, Michael Lane, Bob Lipka, JD Sutton & Jan Wikstrom

Saturday, February 24 at 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 2 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 at 12:00 p.m.

Back by popular demand! Last year's hit reading becomes this year's workshop! Buster Keaton lives again in this touching and funny play that tracks Keaton's desire to make a comeback in the film, Film.

Stone Face

You Might as Well Live
By Norman Mathews

Directed by Kenny Howard
Music Direction by Rich Scharron
Starring Becky Fisher

Sunday, February 25 at 12:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 at 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 at 3:00 p.m.

A one-woman musical that invites us into the world of satirist, humorist, poet and prose-writer Dorothy Parker. "What fresh hell is this?" Somebody open the door to the theater, it's gonna be HOT!

You Might As Well Live
Readings - $3

All the Girls Love Bobby Kennedy
By Kristen Palmer

Directed by Mark Brotherton

Friday, February 23 at 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00 p.m.

Dreams of Bobby Kennedy, love, sex and Vietnam fill a young woman's nights on campus in 1968.

All the Girls Love Bobby Kennedy

Barrio Hollywood
By Elaine Romero

Directed by Ricky J. Martinez

Special Presentation! Two Readings in English, Two in Spanish!
Friday, February 23 at 8:00 p.m. in English
Sunday, February 25 at 3:00 p.m. in Spanish
Saturday, March 3 at 12 p.m. in Spanish
Sunday, March 4 at 3 p.m. in English

Boxing, Folklórico dance, love and death take their turns on the stage in this touching story of the lives a Mexican family and the Anglo doctor who falls in love with their daughter just as her brother falls into a lingering coma.

Barrio Hollywood

Gee's Bend
By Elyzabeth Gregory  Wilder

Directed by Ingrid De Sanctis

Saturday, February 24 at 4:30 p.m.
Monday, February 26 at 7:00 p.m.

From 1939 to the near present, Gee's Bend tells the tale of Sadie Pettway and the women of Gee's Bend, Alabama, who create quilts, sing haunting gospel, and spend a lifetime in a remote nitch along the Alabama River. From the march on Selma to the museum of high art -- the women of Gee's Bend find their place, their peace and their dignity. Presented in conjunction with the Orlando Museum of Art and their display of the Quilts of Gee's Bend.

Gee's Bend

The Ghosts of Sleepy Hollow
By Eric Hissom

Directed by Patrick Flick

Friday, March 2 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 at 6:00 p.m .

Haunting  retelling of this classic American tale. You'll laugh your head off! When you're not too busy being TERRIFIED!

The Ghosts of Sleepy Hollow

By Theresa Rebeck

Directed by David Lee

Saturday, February 24 at 8:30 p.m.
Admission: Free with button

"It's about stamps," says Theresa Rebeck. An exciting new psychological thriller about Philately - the steaming underworld of stamp collecting!


By Michael Hollinger

Directed by Mark Routhier

Saturday, March 3 at 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m.

A world-reknowned string quartet has only a few days to rehearse Beethoven's challenging Opus 131 for a high profile performance.


Playing Alexina

By Rachel Kranz

Directed by Paula Rossman

Thursday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 at 8:30 p.m.

A young woman in antebellum Louisiana sold into slavery claims to be white. A surrealistic trial ensues to determine the fate of both slave and master in a world where no one is exactly who she or he claims to be. There is no black or white -- only shades of doubt.

Playing Alexina

Three Screams
By Vincent Delaney

Directed by Patrick Flick

Wednesday, February 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 3 at 8:30 p.m.

An imaginary look into the life of the man who stole the Munch painting, The Scream. The thief, his wife, their son and the painting tell a tale of grand theft, murder, madness and Norwegian Bloodcake.

Three Screams
Guest Theater Readings

Gulf View Drive
By Arlene Hutton

Presented by the Women Playwrights' Initiative
Orlando, FL
Directed by Chris Jorie

Sunday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00 p.m.

The latest in Arlene Hutton's Nibroc Trilogy. Gulf View Drive finds May and Raleigh living on Florida's Gulf Coast. Relatives descend, further testing the couple's love in this romantic glimpse of life in the 1950s.

Stella Rising
By Napua Davoy

Directed by Grethe Barrett Holby
Presented by Ardea Arts, New York, NY
Running Time: 100 mins with one intermission

Wednesday, February 28 at 7:00 pm
Saturday, March 3 at 12 p.m.

Don't miss this group straight from NY! A family's turbulent history becomes a potent and inspiring evening of music-theater, combining jazz, opera, dueling dialogues, and movement into a one woman tour de force.

The Funnel of Love
By Margot Knight and John DiDonna

Presented by Empty Spaces
Running Time: 45 mins with no intermission
Orlando, FL

Friday, March 2 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 4 at 12:30 p.m.

One day, Angela' husband got drunk and made a pass at the maid, who turned him down because she was gay. After 29 years, a chapter had ended. So Angela, at the age of 53 began the year of living amorously. Match.com, Yahoo personals, It's Just Lunch and E-Harmony--she tried them all. Fifty-nine emails, twelve first dates, five second dates, and 3 third dates later? This is her story. It's not pretty.

Special Events
Opening Night Party - Dinner and Drinks
Friday, February 23 at 6 p.m.
Sponsored by Pollo Tropical and Red Bull

PlayFest Playwrights' Panel
New Plays: Building on the Past, Imagining the Future
Sunday, February 25 at 6:00 p.m.
Margeson Theater
Panel Participants
- Mark Brown: LA/NYC Playwright
- Sherry MacDonald: Canadian Playwright
- Norman Mathews: NYC Playwright
- Mark Routhier: Literary Manager - Magic Theatre
- Tari Stratton: Dramatists Guild, NYC
Led by The Festival's Director of New Play Development, Patrick Flick, and Associate Director, David Lee.

Play-in-a-Day Selection
Come to the panel and stay for the selection!
Sunday, February 25
Margeson Theater at 7:00 p.m.

Play-in a-Day Performance (Fundraiser)
Monday, February 26 - 7pm
Admission: $5 with button
Plays are written, cast, rehearsed and performed within a 24-hour period! Hosted by Orlando International Fringe Festival's Artistic Director, Beth Marshall.

The Stinky Cheese Man
Adapted by Kent Stephens
From the book by Jon Scieska

Presented by the Festival's The Young Company
Saturday, March 3 at 3 p.m.
Admission: Free with button
Reading of a possible play for next season's Theatre for Young Audiences

PodCast Plays!
It's all about Celebrity and Fame for this year's alternative offering at PlayFest! Twelve Advanced Directing students in Associate PlayFest Director, David Lee's class at the University of Central Florida created twelve different audio PodCast plays around this topic. To further complicate matters, after Lee gave them their topic and told them to create 3 distinct characters, one central and two peripheral, Lee announced they were to put the characters into a hat and they drew characters usually not created by themselves and went to work to create a play using these new players.

PodCast Plays will be available for your listening pleasure in the Patrons' Lounge throughout PlayFest! After PlayFest, we'll put them online as TRUE PodCasts. This program is made possible through the generosity of The Apple Store and Kangagirl Productions! Special Thanks to Mark Baratelli.

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April 4 - 29, 2007

By William Shakespeare

Come see Shakespeare's fattest of knights, Sir John Falstaff, as laughter reigns supreme and feminine wisdom triumphs over a jealous husband, confused lovers, and a web of merriment in this light-hearted comedy.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Merry Wives' Makes Merry Audiences
Elizabeth Maupin, ORLANDO SENTINEL

Behold Falstaff. Watch as he tries to hoist his girth up a single step, one ankle crossed ever so daintily behind the other. Observe as he regards his oversize physique approvingly in a full-length mirror. Pay attention as he claims that a woman has admired him: When theatergoers laugh in disbelief, he reproaches them with mournful eyes.

Dan McCleary's Sir John Falstaff is larger than life, but in a way that includes life's subtleties along with its excesses. And the vehicle created to carry him, Shakespeare's comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, follows Falstaff's lead. McCleary's Falstaff isn't the only one who looks like a handsomely wrapped birthday present -- or maybe an overstuffed sofa -- in this opulent Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival production, where the luxurious brocades of the costumes are bedecked by manifold ribbons and bows. But director Jim Helsinger hasn't spent his energy on inflating a flimsy apparatus to five times its normal size. He and his actors have found what's human in Shakespeare's characters, and they've played that humanity up big.

It helps that Helsinger has on hand a pretty nifty cast, with McCleary and Philip Nolen in two of the leads, Anne Hering and Suzanne O'Donnell as the title characters and some of Orlando's best actors in supporting roles. Nor does it hurt that Merry Wives is one of Shakespeare's most likable comedies -- happy-go-lucky, easy to follow and based among the recognizable middle-class folk of the playwright's day. Shakespeare wrote Merry Wives, the story goes, because Queen Elizabeth demanded a play about Falstaff in love. The result was a comedy about the corpulent knight trying to swindle two well-off men by seducing their wives -- but falling for the traps they set when the women turn the tables. Of course, each of the women has trouble at home. Mistress Page (Hering) and her husband are trying to marry their eligible daughter off to a rich man, but they can't agree who's best suited. Mistress Ford (O'Donnell) must cope with a jealous husband (Nolen), who goes to great lengths to thwart hanky-panky that, in reality, is all for show.

Helsinger is big on comic business, but here he doesn't overdo the shtick, and his actors get to display their chops by making smallish roles memorable. Michael Gill makes a dopey, doleful would-be bridegroom and Mark Lainer a sweet-tempered Welsh knight with a very odd speech pattern; Timothy Williams plays a grand French doctor with an accent that makes Peter Sellers' look subtle. A few of the cast members blend into the genial background, and one or two come off as strident rather than funny. But the principals are terrific -- Hering as the resoundingly merry Mistress Page, O'Donnell (here with McCleary) as the amusingly melodramatic Mistress Ford and especially the two men who play their comic foils.

Costumed like an oversized elf, Nolen plays Ford in a permanent snit, until he dons the clothes and accent of a grandiose Spaniard and lisps his way into Falstaff's confidence. And McCleary, whose fat suit and cane make him believably hefty, finds so many shadings in Sir John -- greed and lechery, but also age and want and wisdom -- that he can move you beyond giggles to tears. "Oh, poor Falstaff," whispered the woman sitting behind me at the opening-night performance. "I feel so sorry for him." When she wasn't laughing herself silly.

'Merry Wives' is Shakespeare done right

Here's an idea. Tell someone you're taking them to Orlando to see a bona fide slapstick, fall-on-your-face funny play. Laugh like crazy, enjoy yourself immensely and then tell them they've just seen Shakespeare. It's the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre's "The Merry Wives of Windsor," which is such frothy fun you'll wish it didn't end. Director Jim Helsinger and his talented cast embellish the production with rich humor, detailed characters and an easy understanding of the comedy.

Of course, in the more poetic moments, as when two lovers swoon, Shakespeare's words do become paramount. But here, the story and characters drive the production. It concerns the corpulent knight Sir John Falstaff, who drinks and loves too much. While Falstaff made his appearance in the two "Henry IV" dramas, it is said Queen Elizabeth was so taken by the silver-tongued character that she requested Shakespeare to include him in another play. After returning from meeting his demise as an offstage character in "Henry V," Shakespeare brought Falstaff to life again in this rustic comedy.

In "Merry Wives," Falstaff is quite broke and tries to dupe Mrs. Page and Mrs. Ford out of their husbands' money. He decides to feign love for the two women. His plans fall awry, though, when they discover his plans. They lead him on to trick and ridicule him. The simple set of two doors, a curtain and a balcony over all proves a perfect backdrop for the comic intricacies involving a host of deliciously drawn characters. Dan McCleary imbues Falstaff with more than two yards' worth of girth. Leading a ragtag group of disloyal rogues, he schemes for drink and merriment but always brings a tenderness to his shenanigans. As Mistresses Page and Ford, Suzanne O'Donnell and Anne Hering are like stuffed pigeons, cooing and twittering over their schemes for Falstaff.

Philip Nolen is his over-the-top best in the comic role of Master Ford, the man who fears he is being cuckolded. There's no one better than Nolen when it comes to double takes, comic timing and expressive posturing. Nolen never lets Shakespearean dialogue trump his comic sense. Indeed, the words follow rather than lead. He almost dares the audience not to laugh when, in an effort to ferret out the truth about his wife, Ford takes on the alter ego of Spanish Master Brook. As Dr. Caius, Timothy Williams does the same in his syrupy French accent. Dirty hair falling in ringlets down to his shoulders, pompous pants tied above the ankles to show off his lavender stockings are the perfect foils for this nostril flaring, preening fool who actually says: "If dere be one or two, I shall make-a the turd."

As Caius' servant, Vandit Bhatt serves one of the funniest recurring gags when he follows the doctor in a tightly choreographed "walk this way" fashion. Michael Gill is wonderfully befuddled as Master Slender, who appears to have an unclear sexual orientation in his forced pursuit of Ann Page. But watch out, even in the midst of all these fine actors, newcomer Allison DeCaro nearly steals the show as Mistress Quickly. DeCaro turns her juicy character into a ripe fruit of a woman. The stage brightens considerably when she enters. DeCaro is a bundle of stage energy with a lively face and presence. Like the best of them, she has an ability to turn the most ambiguous dialogue into crystal clear prose.

And, oh, the look of it all. Because the spring show is not outdoors this year (the amphitheater is being renovated), we get to see the entire breadth of the beautiful lighting and props and glorious costumes that shows designer Denise Warner at her best.
This is truly a treat. Don't miss it.

Gets a Laugh From Every Joke!
Carl Gauze, INK 19

Some men are just natural overachievers. Short on cash, roguish Sir John Falstaff (McCleary) decides to simultaneously seduce two wealthy yet happily married women. His big mistake was using a form love letter, and when the women compared notes they decide he's a buffoon (true) and deserves whatever he gets (true again). As the torture beggins, Mistress Margaret Page (Herring) and her doting husband George (Patrick Flick) work to marry their very marketable daughter Anne (Beth Brown) while Mistress Alice Ford (O'Donnell) puts up with her naturally jealous husband Frank (Philip Nolan). As they wreak havoc on his person and pride, they involve husbands, servants, and anyone else who wander on stage. Poor Falstaff, he just wanted to clean out their wallets and bring them permanent Elizabethan disgrace.

With the complete "A" list of OSF actors, Merry Wives gets a laugh from every joke that could possibly connect with a modern audience. Both Hering and O'Donnell were delightful as they poured torture upon torture on the men. Tim Williams as Dr .Caius gives one of the finest French fop performances he's ever done, and Phillip Nolen battles Brad De Planche for the most overwrought self gnawing award in the show. Best of all, McCleary's rotund Falstaff never seems particularly upset, as if he's already in on the jokes played upon his oddly grey head...

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Margeson Theater

- Wed & Thurs: 7 p.m.

- Fri & Sat: 8 p.m.

- Sun: 2 p.m.

- Previews: Wednesday, April 4 & Thursday, April 5 at 7 p.m.

- Senior Matinees: Wednesday, April 18 at 2 p.m.

Ginn Resorts
A. Brian Phillips, P.A.
Foley & Lardner Attorneys at Law
Harris, Harris, Bauerle & Sharma

Preview Video
Dramatis Personae

- Mistress Margaret Page: Anne Hering *
- Master George Page, her husband: Patrick Flick*
- Anne Page, their daughter: Beth Brown
- Mistress Alice Ford: Suzanne O'Donnell*
- Master Frank Ford, her husband: Phillip Nolen*
- Ford Servants: Trista Duval, Matthew Harris, Blake Logan, Liam Schahill- Doctor Caius, suitor to Anne Page: Timothy Williams*
- Mistress Quickly, his housekeeper: Allison DeCaro*
- John Rugby, his servant: Vandit Bhatt
- Sir Hugh Evans, a Welsh parson and schoolteacher: Mark Lainer*
- Host of the Garter Inn: Brad DePlanche*

- Sir John Falstaff: Dan McCleary*
- Robin, his page: Mary Candler
- Bardolph: Matthew Harris
- Pistol: Blake Logan
- Nym: Trita Duval- Master Fenton, in love with Anne Page: Liam Schahill
- Master Robert Shallow, a county justice: Bob Lipka
- Master Abraham Slender, his nephew, suitor to Anne Page: Michael Gill
- Peter Simple: servant to Slender: Christopher McIntyre

Production Team
- Director: Jim Helsinger
- Scenic Designer: Bob Phillips**
- Lighting Designer: Bert Scott**
- Costume Designer: Denise Warner
- Sound Designer: Matthew Given
- Stage Manager: Amy Nicole Davis*
- Assistant Stage Managers: Adrienne Feldman, Stacy Norwood & Emily Satterfield
- Text Coach: Nicole Reinsel
- Sound Board Operator: Rob Jones
- Light Board Operator: Amy Hadley
- Wardrobe: William Curry & Mika Hirabayashi
*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association **Denotes a member of United Scenic Artists