Tag Archives: Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company Announces 2017-2018 Season

Season includes Fear and Misery in the Third Reich,
Old Money, Death and the Maiden,
Richard III on Boston Common, and more

Steven Maler

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC) Founding Artistic Director Steven Maler announced today the 2017-18 Season, to be presented at the Sorenson Center for the Arts at Babson College in Wellesley, as well as in downtown Boston.

Mr. Maler explained the themes connecting the season offerings: “William Faulkner said ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’  I keep coming back to this quote as I think about the world we find ourselves in today, as we struggle to make sense of our rapidly changing world. Industries are being disrupted, politics are being disrupted, lives are being disrupted. In this sea of change, where norms are being upturned and the future is murky, I wanted to look at how great writers responded to mercurial times, how they captured the fleeting moments of civic and personal decisions when history was not yet inexorably fixed, when a change of direction was still possible. These plays capture the subtle, and not so subtle, fissures in the daily domestic tapestry as the Nazi’s came to power in Germany in Bertolt Brecht’s Fear and Misery in the Third Reich; the half-lives of destruction in the wake of a tyrannical military dictatorship in Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden; the power of money, both old and new, in Wendy Wasserstein’s Old Money; the chaos and devastation of political instability in Macbeth; and of the destructive rise and fall of one of Shakespeare’s most riveting villains in Richard III. It’s an intense season for an intense time, a season of plays that we hope provoke deep thought about how we want to be remembered by history.”

Fear and Misery in the Third Reich:  A Staged Reading
by Bertolt Brecht, translated by Eric Bentley, directed by Steven Maler;
featuring Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams
Monday, November 13, 2017 at 7:00 P.M.
Carling-Sorenson Theater, Babson College

Brecht’s series of 18 interconnected playlets describe what life was like in German households in the 1930s as the Nazis came to power. Written while Brecht was in exile in Denmark and first performed in Paris in 1938, these poignant stories dramatize the suspicion and anxiety experienced by ordinary people, particularly Jewish citizens, as the power of Hitler grew. The reading features renowned film and theater actors Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams.

Theatre in the Rough is a script-in-hand reading series presented without common theatrical elements like sets or costumes. These pared-down readings uniquely engage the audience by immersing them in the immediacy of the text and the actors’ performances, allowing one’s own imagination to take creative flight.

Death and the Maiden           
a play by Ariel Dorfman, directed by Steven Maler
January 30–February 11, 2018
Sorenson Black Box, Babson College

After the fall of the totalitarian regime in a South American country, a former political prisoner finds herself face to face with the man she believes was her captor, a sadistic doctor who’s face she never saw. Is he guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or is her paranoia getting the better of her?

Old Money
by Wendy Wasserstein, directed by Karen McDonald
March 6–18, 2018
Carling-Sorenson Theater, Babson College

A dinner party in a fashionable home offers a rich and witty look at social classes and issues of wealth and privilege — from the Gilded Age of the early 20th century to the present day.

by William Shakespeare, directed by David Gammons
featuring the CSC2 Company of early-career actors
Carling-Sorenson Theater, Babson College
June 1, 2018 Shakespeare’s classic tragedy dramatizes the damaging effects of political ambition on those who seek power for its own sake.

Richard III – Free Shakespeare on the Boston Common!
by William Shakespeare, directed by Steven Maler

July – August, 2018Shakespeare’s searing chronicle of a ruthless leader’s ascension through betrayals and multiple murders, and the devastation he leaves in his wake as he gains power over the realm.

In addition, CSC presents its annual series, Shakespeare and the Law and Shakespeare and Leadership as follows;

Shakespeare & the Law: Measure for Measure
Directed by Adam Sanders
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 6:00 P.M.
Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston

Info: commshakes.org  617-426-0863

Talking With Brandon G. Green

Award Winning Actor To Play
Benvolio In Commonwealth Shakespeare’s
Romeo and Juliet

by Bobby Franklin

For its 22nd season Commonwealth Shakespeare Company will be presenting Romeo and Juliet on the Boston Common. The production, which is free to the public, will run from July 19th through August 6th.

Brandon G. Green

Brandon G. Green, will be taking on the role of Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin and friend. Brandon grew up in Selma, Alabama and earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Alabama State University. He moved to the Boston area to attend Brandeis University where he received his MFA. He now teaches at Brandeis.

Most recently he was seen on a Boston stage in the part of Mr. Tambo in the critically acclaimed SpeakEasy Stage production of The Scottsboro Boys. He also won the 2016 Elliot Norton Best Actor Award for his role in the Company One/Arts Emerson production of An Octoroon.

I had a chance to speak with Brandon before rehearsal at the Sorenson Center for the Arts at Babson College in Wellesley.

When we began our conversation I was struck by his rich, deep voice. I could immediately imagine Brandon in the role of the peacemaker Benvolio. His tone would convey both a calming effect and a command that would certainly enable his message to be heard and understood. Accepting that message will prove to be another thing.

Brandon Green grew up in Selma, Alabama. I asked him if there was much opportunity there for a student to pursue acting. “I went to a school that was very much about the arts when I was in the 6th grade, the School of Discovery. I got the bug there. Well, I actually had the bug before then.”

When I asked about what he used as an outlet in his younger, pre 6th grade days, he responded “Yes, I had the bug way before then. I would take part in school assemblies, Christmas Plays, as well as at church.” Was he a class clown? “No, actually, I was really quiet, very quiet. In high school I was in the marching band and choir. There wasn’t a lot, but what they did have helped me out.”

He recalls his time at Alabama State University in Montgomery fondly, “It was a really amazing program. I would argue it is one of the best undergraduate programs in the country.”

“I kind of feel like I’m playing a bit of myself…”

Our conversation turns to his latest project, playing Benvolio for CSC. “I kind of feel like I’m playing a bit of myself. The peacemaker almost reluctantly taking care of his cousin. Benvolio has his own things but he is definitely there for Romeo, and definitely the peacemaker. I was very much that in my friend circles. I was also the one people would come to for counsel in a way. I found myself there a lot of times, and there were times I was in need of a Benvolio in my life.”

Kai Tshikosi (Tybalt) and Brandon Green (Benvolio)

When I ask about Benvolio being a voice of calm and reason in a play where so many characters are irrational, Brandon gives some insight. “Benvolio means good will, well wisher, peacemaker. I feel like the straight man to a lot of the chaos that goes on. He is the cool head that is trying to prevail and survive in a way.” Why is Benvolio no longer in the play after Act I? “The peacemaker in this world has decided go away. He’s not there and that dims the lights a bit.”

Brandon tells me he has always loved Shakespeare. At Selma High while in the 10th grade he took a theatre arts class. He remembers, “LeBaron Mack taught us the Scottish Play (MacBeth). It was my first way into it and I fell in love with it there. When I got to Alabama State I saw Othello. It was amazing.” Brandon would go on to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in 2010 and then to Brandeis where he got more training in classical theatre. Two years ago he played Oswald in the CSC production of King Lear.

Fight Director Angie Jepson, Kai Tshikosi, and Brandon Green.

Does he have a dream role? “I kind of already played it and that was in An Octoroon. I could not have dreamt up that role. It scared me. That was the perfect storm. A role that called on all my facilities as a performer. It was fun. It was challenging to myself and the audience. I got to let loose in a way I wanted to, or that I didn’t know I wanted to. I will carry that with me forever.”

As our conversation winds down I ask Brandon why people should see the CSC production of Romeo and Juliet on the Boston Common. “It is a magical experience. I truly believe that. Also, seeing a cast this diverse telling the story is incredible. There is nothing like this, it is transformative. You are out there with thousands of people. It’s crazy and it’s beautiful. A very unique experience.” His enthusiasm is contagious.

“Theatre is a collaborative between the audience and the performers..”

In closing I ask Brandon what he would like to say to the audience. I found his comments very thoughtful, sincere, and important. “Theatre is a collaborative between the audience and the performers, so please, we need your energy as much as you need ours. It’s reciprocal.”

Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage.” Well, you have a wonderful opportunity to share that stage this summer with a very talented and committed actor. Join Brandon Green and the rest of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company on the Common for what will surely be a great experience.

Romeo and Juliet
Boston Common
July 19 through August 6

Photos by Bobby Franklin

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company Presents BECKETT IN BRIEF: Rough for Radio II • The Old Tune Krapp’s Last Tape

Directed by James Seymour
April 27 – May 7
Carling-Sorenson Center at Babson College, Wellesley, MA

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Founding Artistic Director Steven Maler, presents BECKETT IN BRIEF – Rough for Radio II • The Old Tune • Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by James Seymour, featuring Will Lyman, Ken Baltin and Ashley Risteen. The production, presented by BabsonARTS, begins performances on April 27 and runs through May 6 at the Carling-Sorenson Center at Babson College, 19 Babson College Drive, Wellesley, MA.

Performance dates: April 27, 28, 29, May 3, 4, 5, 6 at 7:30PM; April 30, May 6 and 7 at 3:00PM

Among Samuel Beckett’s most autobiographical works, Rough for Radio II, The Old Tune, and Krapp’s Last Tape explore universal questions of creativity, memory, aging, sex, friendship, and the proximity of death. These plays from his mid-career are traditionally viewed as individual statements, but the three provide a wealth of impressions when placed in conversation with one another, giving us a better understanding of the legendary playwright’s intellect, passion, and temperament.

Ken Baltin (Cream/Fox)’s credits in the Boston area include Death of a Salesman, Glengarry Glen Ross, Lost in Yonkers, Laughter on the 23rd Floor (Lyric Stage); Kite Runner, Eurydice, Waiting for Godot, American Buffalo (New Repertory); Deported-a dream play, King of the Jews, Permanent Whole Life (Boston Playwrights); Operation Epsilon (Nora Theatre); Copenhagen, A Screenwriter’s Daughter (Vineyard Playhouse); Oleanna (Merrimack Repertory) Brooklyn Boy (SpeakEasy); Last Night of Ballyhoo, I Ought to be in Pictures, Yom Kippur in Da Nang (Jewish Theatre of New England). He teaches acting and directs at The Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Will Lyman

Will Lyman (Krapp/Gorman) was recently seen as Junius Brutus Booth in CSC’s production of Our American Hamlet at The Carling- Sorenson Center at Babson College, is well known to Boston audiences for his work with CSC, of which he is a founding Board Member (King Lear, Prospero, Claudius, Brutus); Israeli Stage (Oh God, Ulysses on Bottles); the Huntington Theatre (All My Sons, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Dead End); New Rep (Long Day’s Journey into Night, Exits and Entrances, Clean House, Ice Breaker); SpeakEasy Stage Company (The Dying Gaul); Wheelock Family Theatre (To Kill a Mockingbird); Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (The Wrestling Patient in collaboration with SpeakEasy Stage Company, King of the Jews, A Girl’s War); and The Nora Theatre Company (Equus, Operation Epsilon). He is a multiple recipient of the Norton and IRNE Awards and was honored with the Howard Keel Award for service to the Screen Actors Guild. He was given 2013’s Norton Award for Sustained Excellence and 2015’s NETC Award. Television credits include “Crossbow,” “Threat Matrix,” and “Commander in Chief.” Movies for television include Meltdown, Our Fathers, Three Sovereigns for Sarah, and George Washington; he appeared in the films A Perfect Murder, The Siege, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Mystic River, Little Children (narrator), What Doesn’t Kill You. Mr. Lyman has been the narrator of the PBS public affairs program “Frontline” since its second season and has appeared as himself on The Simpsons.

Ashley Risteen (Stenographer) was last seen by Boston audiences in Gloucester Stage Co.’s Man in Snow, which moved on to a run at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre in Manhattan this past November. Her previous Boston credits include Speakeasy Stage Co.’s Appropriate,  Zeitgeist Stage Co.’s Neighborhood Watch, Big Meal, Cakewalk, and Hub Theatre Co.’s 6 Hotels. A native of the North Shore, she has been active in the Newburyport theatre community for many years, notably in the Firehouse Center’s The 39 Steps, and the Actor’s Studio’s Speed-The-Plow.

James Seymour (Director) has appeared in leading roles on Broadway (I Love My Wife), Off-Broadway (Small Craft Warnings, Moonchildren), on television (“Kate and Allie”) and at major regional theatres, including The Long Wharf Theatre, Trinity Repertory Company, and Portland Stage. Directed productions include All the Way Home at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Road at The Marymount Manhattan Theatre, I Love My Wife at Detroit’s Birmingham Theatre, The Bacchae at UNC-Chapel Hill, and over twenty-five productions for The Island Theatre at the University of Guam. He has also taught Theatre, English Composition, Film, and Literature at Marymount Manhattan College, Queens College, CUNY, The Colorado College, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His play Two Lovers (A Taotaomona Tale and I Domino) was produced in Guam. Currently a lecturer in English and Film at the University of Maine, Jim was raised in New Jersey and spent most of his life in New York City, after receiving his BFA from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts and Ph.D. from the Graduate Center at The City University of New York.

www.commshakes.org  781.239.5660

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s “Shakespeare and Leadership Series” presents RICHARD II

Carling-Sorenson Center for the Arts at Babson College
Wednesday, April 5 at 7:00P

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Founding Artistic Director Steven Maler, is pleased to present its annual Shakespeare and Leadership series, focusing this spring on the historical drama Richard II. The event will take place at the Carling-Sorenson Center for the Arts at Babson College on Wednesday, April 5, 2017.
The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended since space is limited. To reserve a seat log onto https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/967285


The series features a script-in-hand reading of one of Shakespeare’s plays performed by renowned business, government, and community leaders alongside actors. The plays are cut down to run about 60 minutes. The reading is followed by a panel discussion by the participants addressing leadership questions and themes raised in the text. This year, the title will be Richard II, Shakespeare’s history play that focuses on disruption and the transition of leadership. Although the struggle for England’s throne was never simple, the kingdom lasted for over three hundred years before the sovereignty passed outside a direct familial line. But when an inept ruler – indecisive, frivolous and vain – angered the established nobility, one man interceded and cast doubt over the legitimacy of England’s leadership for generations to come.


Participants in the reading and discussion of Richard II will include Dr. Kerry Healey, President of Babson College; Jeff Gonneville, Chief Operating Officer of MBTA; Jon Abbott, President and CEO of WGBH; Harriet Cross, British Consul General in Boston; Donna Latson Gittens, CEO and Founder of MORE Advertising, Dennis Hong, Founder and CEO of ShawSpring Partners, and Yehuda Yakoov, Consul General of Israel. The event will be directed by CSC Associate Artistic Director Adam Sanders, and moderated by CSC Artistic Director Steven Maler.


Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC), best known for its annual free performances on Boston Common, is a non-profit theater organization founded in 1996, dedicated to presenting vital and contemporary productions of William Shakespeare and other dramatic works to the people of Greater Boston, and to exploring Shakespeare’s work with youth in innovative and creative ways. CSC’s Free Shakespeare on the Common has served over one million audience members over its 22-year history, and has become a beloved summer tradition enjoyed by nearly 75,000 people annually. In 2013, CSC became the Theatre-in-Residence at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and has been able to expand its offerings beyond the annual Boston Common production. Starting this season, CSC will present fully staged productions in Babson’s Sorenson Center, as well as readings and other events. CSC fulfills its educational mission with actor-training programs for pre-professional and professional actors through the summer Apprentice program and CSC2.

To learn more about these programs, visit commshakes.org.

Review: Our American Hamlet

The Booth Family:
Tragedians On And Off
The Stage

Our American Hamlet
The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

The world premiere of Our American Hamlet now playing at the Sorenson Center for the Arts at Babson College in Wellesley is a fascinating and intriguing look at a family that would have been remembered more for producing two of the greatest Shakespearean actors of the 19th Century, had it not been for actions of John Wilkes Booth who gained infamy by assassinating Abraham Lincoln. His words “Sic semper tyrannis”, shouted on the stage at Ford’s Theater that  April night would become one of the most remembered lines in theatre history. It would also cast a shadow over the Booth name, one that had survived scandals but nothing compared to this horrible deed. It is against this backdrop the play unfolds, and it is an interesting one.

Our American Hamlet is an evening of wonderful theatre and should not be missed.

In Jake Broder’s play we get to see all of the Booths in their greatness, their near madness, and their rivalries. It is a complicated story that Mr. Broder makes easy to follow by using the character of Adam Badeau, which he plays, as the narrator and as a friend of Edwin’s. He is very effective in keeping everything in perspective.

Jake Broder
Photo Credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

The play opens with Mr. Broder taking the stage next to a ghost light. He sets the action with a speech that is reminiscent of the opening scene of Henry V. We then see Edwin Booth as he is preparing back stage for his first performance since his brother’s infamous deed. Much of the play takes place backstage as the action moves to the past and the family history is told.

Jacob Fishel and Will Lyman
Photo Credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

The Booth story is both fascinating and intriguing, one of great success and much pain. Junius Brutus Booth, the family patriarch, is a man with a love for his liquor who appears to be bordering at times on madness. He is played by Will Lyman who takes the role to the edge without allowing it to slip into caricature. Mr. Lyman, who is one of Boston’s great actors, lives up to his reputation in this role.

Jacob Fishel
Photo Credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

As I watched Jacob Fishel in the role of Edwin Booth I was thinking what a challenge it must be to portray a man who is considered to be one of the greatest actors of all time. Mr. Fishel does not appear to be at all intimidated by this and is a joy to watch. The back and forth between Edwin and Junius is sprinkled with lines from Hamlet that are never overplayed and always appropriate to the action. Edwin spent years dealing with his father’s mood changes and alcoholism as well as verbal abuse. He also spent this time observing his father and learning the craft of acting. When the opportunity arose he was ready. Mr. Fishel and Mr. Lyman are at times intense in their roles opposite each other, an intensity that drives the action.

Joe Fria
Photo Credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

Joe Frias brings us a John Wilkes who has much youthful confidence but is lacking in the talent his brother and father possess. Mr. Frias does a fine job in showing the bitterness that develops as John becomes frustrated and then made to feel inadequate by Edwin who not only overshadows him on the stage but also has a penchant for making him feel inferior. How much all of this played into the madness that drove him to assassinate the president is something we will never know.

Brother June (Kelby Akin), sister Asia (Lucy Davenport), and mother Mary Ann Holmes (Maureen Keiller) are the rest of the family. June owns a theatre in California, Asia marries the owner of a theatre not for love but because it will help advance Edwin’s career, and Mary encourages John in his desires to make a career on the stage while at the same time throwing guilt onto Edwin.

The voices of the actors in this production are like music.

Steven Maler has done a fine job directing this original piece of theatre. It is interesting to have scenes where we, the audience, get to sit backstage looking out at a theater while the actors perform scenes from Shakespeare and watch from behind as they take their bows or have their breakdowns. There is even a bit of Our American Cousin performed. The final scene is a wonderful piece of theatre that overlaps the Hamlets and the Booths. It is very interesting to see.

Our American Hamlet is an evening of wonderful theatre and should not be missed.  You will enjoy, learn much, and leave asking many what if questions. The voices of the actors in this production are like music. They are clear and resonant. A joy to hear.

Putting on a new play is a risk for any theatre company and the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company is to be commended for staging this work. I highly recommend Our American Hamlet, you will not be disappointed.

Our American Hamlet
By Jake Border
Directed by Steven Maler
Through April 2nd at the Sorenson Center for the Arts
Babson College, Wellesley, MA

A note: Wellesley is not on another planet. The Sorenson Theater is very easy to find using GPS. There is plenty of free parking, and the theater is very comfortable with plenty of leg room. The Commonwealth Shakespeare has partnered with Babson College and is now able to stage productions all year long in addition to their free Shakespeare on the Common every summer.