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Entertainment & Arts

Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival will get, at long last, a permanent stage

The Independent Shakespeare Co.'s temporary stage, where it presented “Titus Andronicus” in 2018.
The Independent Shakespeare Co.'s temporary stage, where it presented “Titus Andronicus” in 2018.
(Grettel Cortes)

If you’ve ever attended the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival held every summer, then you’ve seen the actors perform atop a stage that has been “temporary” for nearly a decade.

At long last, the Independent Shakespeare Co., which has put on the festival in the park since 2010, said the city soon will build a $4-million permanent stage where the temporary stage was located, pushing forward the stalled project.

“It moved fairly quickly to start with but then [we] ran into some pushback from the Friends of Griffith Park, who were institutionally opposed to any permanent construction in the park. There was a long lawsuit,” said David Melville, managing director of Independent Shakespeare Company. The city won, Melville said, but then permits were hung up. “So it’s really dragged on.”

Melville said the stage will be about 50 feet across and 50 feet deep. To make the project compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, the road leading to the stage will be reconstructed for better wheelchair access.

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The construction timeline has not been confirmed, Melville said, though the city will have the summer festival in mind. Once built, the stage will be available for other groups to use.

“Shakespeare will be there in our current time slot, which is the end of June through Labor Day weekend,” Melville said. But he added other groups might use it for daytime concerts, graduation ceremonies, yoga classes, among other activities.

The project will be funded by Proposition K, which allocates funds to city parks.

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell did not return requests for comment, but earlier this month at the final performance of this summer’s Shakespeare festival, O’Farrell took to the stage to tout the news.

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Melville said the change will allow Independent Shakespeare Co. to improve production values such as more three-dimensional sets and better audio — a “qualitative leap.”

“And what I’m really hoping for, honestly, is for it to become one of the city’s biggest artistic institutions that is going to outlast certainly me,” Melville said.

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A play from “This Is Us” and “The Cake” writer Bekah Brunstetter leads this week’s offerings, which hop from North Hollywood to Atwater to Los Feliz.


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