The Balboa Park theater stages “Henry V” and “The Taming of the Shrew’ plus revived “Hair” and a new “Dial M for Murder”
A musical that was controversial for its time will unspool at the Old Globe this summer alongside a Shakespeare play that will probably be controversial until the end of time.
And that’s not the half of the Balboa Park theater’s just-announced summer season. Actually, strike that: It’s exactly half of the summer 2020 lineup, which takes in the two-play Shakespeare Festival plus a pair of non-festival productions.
Up first are “The Taming of the Shrew,” Shakespeare’s ever-vexing comedy of romantic combat and, depending on how you look at it, sexual subjugation; and “Hair,” the pioneering 1967 rock musical that has everybody getting (discreetly) naked at the end. (The actors, not the audience. So far as we know.)
Also on the way: a world-premiere adaptation of the classic mystery “Dial M for Murder,” the Frederick Knott chiller made famous by the Hitchcock film; and the first Globe staging in nearly 20 years of Shakespeare’s great “Henry V,” directed by the Broadway luminary and former Globe favorite Daniel Sullivan.
Here’s a closer look at what’s coming up, with thoughts from artistic director Barry Edelstein:
“The Taming of the Shrew,” June 14 to July 19 (opens June 21), Lowell Davies Festival Theatre: It’s been nine years since the Globe last staged Shakespeare’s comedy about the efforts of the pushy and egotistical Petruchio to get with (and essentially domesticate) the strong-willed Katharine.
These days, the play’s fraught sexual politics put it among the Shakespeare works that “people don’t produce very frequently,” as Edelstein observes. “Because in the wrong hands it can be very problematic.”
But Edelstein found himself very much sold on Shana Cooper’s approach when he saw the rising director’s “Shrew” at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival near New York City two summers ago.
“I was knocked out by it,” says Edelstein, noting that Cooper found an approach — rooted in Shakespeare’s own commedia dell’arte inspirations for “Shrew” — that “I thought really solved the problems of the play, or came as close to solving the problems of the play as I’ve ever seen.”
Bringing Cooper into the Globe fold also serves Edelstein’s longer-term goal of trying to provide women more access to Shakespeare on a major stage: “It’s wonderful to give an opportunity to a young director who has really devoted her career to this writer, and champion her in this way. And I feel really honored to do that.”
“Hair,” July 2 to August 9 (opens July 10), Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage: The “American tribal love-rock musical,” which premiered in 1967, has been revived many times here and around the world, but never at the Globe.
Edelstein, though, was very receptive when the accomplished San Diego-based director James Vásquez (whose Globe production of “Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” is now running) proposed the show.
“I’ve had a weak spot for that musical for a long, long time,” says Edelstein, “because the score is so amazing — it’s just song after song. It doesn’t have a lot of plot, (but) it’s really about young people trying to find their voice in a time of political upheaval. So it couldn’t be more timely now.”
Edelstein says Vásquez’s concept is to set the piece at an outdoor political protest. The Broadway-seasoned Rickey Tripp will choreograph.
“Dial M for Murder,” July 25 to Aug. 23 (opens July 30), Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre: The Globe commissioned the celebrated playwright-screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher (a Globe returnee) to adapt the murder mystery best-known for its 1954 movie version.
The prospect of staging Knott’s original “Dial M” is problematic because some aspects haven’t aged well: “To put it bluntly, the lead woman in the story exists in the play only to be a victim of a crime,” as Edelstein says. “So you read it and say, you can’t produce this play anymore. Because she has no agency in her own fate. She’s just there to be a prop for these devilishly clever men to manipulate and victimize.”
Edelstein, though, admired what Hatcher had done with his adaptation of another vintage Knott saga, “Wait Until Dark.” And both the playwright and the Knott estate liked the idea of revisiting “Dial M.”
“We talked about, can you quite simply give Margot (the lead female) a little more agency in her own situation?,” says Edelstein. “And that’s all he’s going to do. Because you don’t want to mess with the plotting of it.”
Stafford Arima, who took the musical “Allegiance” from the Globe to Broadway and also staged “Red Velvet” here, will direct.
“Henry V,” Aug. 11 to Sept. 13 (opens Aug. 16), Lowell Davies Festival Theatre: The Bard’s stirring history play was last staged at the Globe in 2000. Beyond simply wanting to revisit the piece, “this is about a conversation with an artist, Daniel Sullivan,” Edelstein says of the top New York director and Tony Award winner. “I’ve been trying to get him here since I came.”
Sullivan directed a half-dozen shows at the Globe starting in the mid-1970s, and over the past decade or so has staged high-profile Shakespeare productions in Central Park for New York’s Public Theater, Edelstein’s own former artistic home.
“He’s not just a friend but a mentor, and an artist to whose level of excellence I aspire,” Edelstein says.
“I’m just absolutely delighted he’s going to come. And this is just a great play. It’s one of the ones that’s just thrilling for audiences. When I teach Shakespeare to actors, I spend a lot of time in ‘Henry V,’ because what he’s doing with the language in that play really represents Shakespeare at his most scintillating.”
Tickets to the Globe’s summer season are available at the moment only by subscription; call (619) 234-5623 or go to theoldglobe.org.