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Shakespeare Festival brings comedy and history to the stage

Performers preparing for Cal Baptist's 2024 Courtyard Shakespeare Festival. (Courtesy of California Baptist University)

The 2024 Courtyard Shakespeare Festival invites spectators to enjoy performances on the Elizabethan stage at California Baptist University.

This year the repertory production features comedy and history in "As You Like It" and "Henry V." The festival opens June 14.

Zachary Bortot, associate professor of theatre, plays King Henry V, calling it a “bucket list role.” A challenge that comes with that role is memorizing all the lines. 

“King Henry talks a lot. I believe he is in the top five when it comes to the number of lines, up there with Hamlet and Richard III,” Bortot said. “I have learned how much Henry uses the rhetorical device of hyperbaton in his language. By inverting expected word order, there is unique emphasis put on thoughts and ideas.”

Bortot hopes the audiences leave entertained. “Henry V” is a history play, which sometimes people think will be boring.

“This is not a boring play,” he said. “It is wartime, so it has everything you would expect with that genre — political intrigue, betrayal, battles and acts of heroic courage in the face of overwhelming odds. But it also has moments of comedy and romance — it offers a little bit of something for everyone.”

Ethan Park, adjunct professor of theatre and director of "As You Like It," has previously acted in the festival productions, and this is his second year of directing a production. While he trimmed and arranged scenes to align with audiences’ comprehension, it is still the original Shakespeare text. 

While a comedy, “As You Like It” is also a beautiful story about love and acceptance, Park said.

“That's what I hope the audience takes from this. Some laughs, yes, perhaps even a groan or sigh at times, but more than that, a warming of the heart and the remembrance that love wins,” Park said.

Caleb J. Leal (’19) plays multiple roles in both plays, including Oliver in “As You Like It” and the Duke of Burgundy, Lord Rambures and Sir Thomas Grey in “Henry V.” He is also responsible for sound design in “Henry V.”

“For me, something so unique and special about the festival is the fact that it brings in people from the theatre community surrounding CBU,” Leal said. “People from all walks of life come together to create something they are passionate about, and we get to build our own community.”

 He said he hopes audiences leave with a sense of community and the idea of reconciliation.

 “Both plays contain these themes, from familial reconciliation to treaties on a national level. Here we see larger-than-life stories that take us back to ourselves: Can we forgive and move on?” Leal said.

 Kiana Bjur (’16) plays Rosalind in “As You Like It.”

 “The Shakespeare festival is something I look forward to every year, and it is a special part of my summer,” Bjur said. “I hope the audience gets a good laugh throughout the performance and also that they take something away from the show that affected them deeply and that they will want to talk to their friends about.”

This year the festival is being held in the Wallace Theatre due to a small fire backstage on the outdoor stage. There were no injuries or structural damage, but the theatre group decided to bring the festival indoors so that the shows may go on. 

Courtyard Shakespeare Festival

“Henry V”
6 p.m. June 14, 16, 20 and 22 

“As You Like It”
6 p.m. June 15, 19, 21 and 28

Wallace Theatre, California Baptist University
8432 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, CA, 92504

Tickets: $12-$15 
Tickets Order online at calbaptist.edu/theater/ 

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