Do Shakespeare and they will come

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy will morph from a school campus to a wonderland of nighttime revelry, theater, art and music as the annual La Cañada Flintridge Shakespeare Festival kicks off its second season there starting June 24.

The festival, nicknamed LCFShakes, is presented by the nonprofit theater company VanguardRep. It will feature two shows that will run through the end of July, with nighttime performances at the school’s Byrnes Amphitheater Thursdays through Sundays.

In addition to a freshly developed adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” audiences can also enjoy the world premieres of “After the Autumn” and “Tragic Women,” two original plays inspired by Shakespeare’s works and characters.

The festival also will feature local artists and musicians, and audience members are encouraged to bring blankets, picnic dinners and wine to enjoy under the stars with friends and family.

Despite the newness of the event, last year’s inaugural festival was a success that drew larger crowds each week as word spread throughout the community, according to Matthew Burgos, who serves as co-artistic director alongside Sam Ross.

“The venue is private, has great acoustics and, under the stars, you can’t go wrong with that in the summertime,” Burgos said. “The overall experience will speak for itself.”

Liz Ross, the educational director of Vanguard Rep and an English teacher at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, said the first shows drew audiences of just 30 to 50 people. That number swelled, however, as the festival continued until actors were entertaining crowds of hundreds in the final performances.

“For a brand new theater company to create an original adaptation in a brand new space and to have attracted such amazing artists, designers and actors was true magic,” Ross said of last year’s festival. “Every person I spoke with after the performance said that it was creative, fun and very different from anything he or she had ever seen before.”

“After the Autumn,” a contemporary tragedy inspired by “Macbeth,” explores the relationship between a somewhat self-destructive psychiatrist and his patient, a war-torn veteran dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. The play examines the existential struggle between the concept of free will and pre-destination. “Tragic Women” is a short piece created by VanguardRep that unites three ill-fated Shakespearean women — Juliet, Desdemona and Ophelia — in purgatory, using elements of storytelling, movement and song.

What sets LCFShakes apart from other bard-inspired productions may be partly attributed to VanguardRep’s artistic vision, as well as its partnership with Actor’s Equity Assn., a union that ensures players receive adequate compensation for providing high-quality professional performances, according to Burgos.

So far, the La Cañada Flintridge community has proven a perfect fit for the company, because the people who attend the festival performances believe, as VanguardRep does, that high-quality actors and productions are worth supporting financially, Burgos said.

The festival begins with a June 24 showing of “After the Autumn/Tragic Women,” which runs through July 31 with 8 p.m. shows. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens July 1 and runs, on dates that alternate with “After the Autumn/Tragic Women,” through July 29 with all shows at 8 p.m.

Student prices range from $10 to $12 or $18 for a festival pass. Adult tickets range from $20 to $29, with festival passes beginning at $38. For more information on the 2011 La Cañada Flintridge Shakespeare Festival, visit VanguardRep’s website at, email or call (818) 745-3327.

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