Independent Shakespeare Company (ISC) is back at Griffith Park with a rarely produced 17th century comedy  – THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE – written by Shakespeare’s friend, Francis Beaumont.

Any real ISC’s fan knows David Melville, and as he comes in, within the first minutes of the play, loudly interrupting the action on stage, excusing himself as he walks through picnic set-ups, dressed in a shirt suspiciously similar to a Trader Joe’s clerk’s, the audience immediately knows that something is up. 

The fact is that this play is actually a theater-goer’s “nightmare,” of sorts. Two “audience members” (Melville and Sabra Williams) jump onstage early-on to demand that their friend (Bukola Ogunmola) be written into the story. What follows is pure mayhem as the two won’t stop attempting to incorporate more and more fanciful suggestions.

Director Melissa Chalsma wrote: “The Griffith Park audiences are going to be delighted by moments where they interact with the actors on stage in ways that don’t often happen in contemporary theater. There’s a palpable sense that they impact the performance directly.”

The sounds are quite familiar, though; which means that someone worked very hard to modernize this 400+ year-old play. In fact, the audience finds itself in the odd situation of having to be “in” with Shakespeare’s language and at the same time “in” with contemporary popular music. I’m not gonna lie, my brain got some exercise!

For sure, THE KNIGHT OF THE BURNING PESTLE is every bit the experimental theater that Beaumont intended it to be, and it’s also often amusing. And, if there’s ever an ISC play in which your children will fit right in – this one is it.

This summer’s performances are happening north of ISC’s permanent location (which is still under construction), at the smaller site that was used last year, north of the Old Zoo. That means that space is limited and registration is required. Reserve your space here. 

Bring a picnic, a blanket or a low-back chair, a jacket because the air cools down once the sun goes down, and bug repellent (lots of bees).  Also, know that the park’s security will fine you if they see any alcohol. 

Performance dates are as follows:

Thursday, July 14

Friday, July 15

Saturday, July 16

Sunday, July 17

Wednesday, July 20

Thursday, July 21

Friday, July 22

Saturday, July 23

Sunday, July 24

Wednesday, July 27

Thursday, July 28

Friday, July 29

Saturday, July 30

Sunday, July 31

While performances are free, donations are gratefully accepted. There’s free parking at Merry Go Round Lots 2 & 3.

For further information, please visit www.iscla.org or call 818-710-6306.

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