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Abandoned Buildings Become Home For Shakespeare

shakespeare-21Just off the Calgrove exit on the 5 Freeway, at The Old Road, is sleepy Towsley Canyon Park. Upon entering through the old wooden gates, there are two abandoned, earthquake-damaged buildings and the remnants of what were once animal stalls. A thick layer of natural debris, leaves and branches cover the ground just opposite the dirt parking lot where those setting off on one of the beautiful trails of the canyon must first enter. This façade of decay, however, is soon to change, as the abandoned park will be Shakespeare’s new home for the summer.

In past years, “Shakespeare In the Park” productions have bravely toured with no lighting, minimal scenery, costuming, and amplification, and all while performing in the heat of the late afternoon sun. The company—including the actors—would transport the show into a park in the morning, perform in the afternoon, then have to strike and move to the new location for the next day’s performance.

“It was very taxing on everyone”, says David Stears, founder of the original event in 1990 and producer of the Shakespeare series for 10 years. “Our new location will allow us to create a fuller experience for the audience, with greater theatricality: more extensive scenery, lighting and sound. We can create experiences we could not achieve with the small traveling shows.”

Now the company will have the honor of moving its annual ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ performances to Towsley Canyon. Sets, lights, sound, actors and audience members will fill Towsley Canyon Park for three weekends in July with performances of “The Tempest,” directed by Mark McQuown.

“It is a wonderful location, and I believe that it is brimming with potential,” says David Stears, the executive director of the company. “This park is at the gateway to our community and a perfect location to hold events and festivals.”

Working with the City of Santa Clarita, as well as dozens of local businesses and volunteers, the new company, now called the Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival, is clearing away years of debris and creating a temporary performance space for the production. The area not only needs to be cleared and leveled for audience seating, but will also have power brought in to allow for lights and sound, as well fencing for security. The Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival is reaching out to the community to make this project a reality.

“This new location will allow the festival to grow, and perhaps give other groups and festivals a new venue in our community”, says Stears. “Someday there may even be an amphitheatre.”

“The Tempest” opens July 17th, and runs Saturday and Sunday nights through August 1st. The new location allows for greater audience comfort and services with vendors available for food and refreshments, as well as pre-show entertainment for those arriving early.

Performances will start at 8:00 PM, which will make for a “cooler” evening. Gates will open at 6:00 PM for food and refreshments, with pre-show activities and entertainment beginning at 6:30 PM.

Towsley Canyon is easily accessible from all local freeways at 24255 The Old Road; exit

Calgrove from the 5 Freeway. All performances are free, open to the public, and suitable for all ages. Bring the family and a blanket for an evening of fine performance and fare.

For more information about Shakespeare in the Park, or the company, please contact the

Executive Director, David Stears at (661) 513-3538, or at davidstears@scshakespearefest.org. For detailed directions to Towsley Canyon Park or information about the company, visit the website at: www.scshakespearefest.org or www.facebook.com/SCShakespeare Fest.