ISC serves our community through creating inspiring, accessible theater and bringing it to as wide an audience as possible. Our actions and our art are informed by the following beliefs:
• Classic plays are our cultural legacy and, like all great art, they are a vital part of forming bonds both within our community as well as to the past.
• Diversity within the production, as well as in the audience, creates stronger, more entertaining theatrical experiences.
• The audience’s understanding and enjoyment of the theater experience is of paramount importance.
• Great writing and skillful performances take precedence over the technical elements of contemporary theatre.
• Dynamic speaking and innovative staging are the primary means of engaging the audience’s imagination.
• Productions of classical plays should be readily available to all.
• There is no greater cause than to expand current audiences and create future ones.
ISC was founded in 1998 by actors sharing a passion for classical works. We focued on stripping back the conventions of contemporary theater and discovering efficient, entertaining ways to bring great works to a modern audience. Our first production, Shakespeare’s Henry V, was produced with a budget of $800 at The Present Company Theatorium on New York’s Lower East Side. This busy, downtown arts venue booked productions at all conceivable hours. Henry V played Tuesday nights at 10:00 pm, following the 8:00 pm performance of another company’s Pigoletto: the opera Rigoletto featuring a man in pig suit.
ISC relocated to Los Angeles in 2001, producing several productions in small venues. In 2003, we partnered with the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles to produce Free Shakespeare in Barnsdall Park. The first performance of the outdoor, free festival was attended by 14 people and a dog. By 2009, the summer festival performed for nearly 12,000 patrons, outgrowing Barnsdall Park.
2010 marked the start of a new chapter in our history: the summer festival moved to Griffith Park. It’s an ideal spot. It’s truly the park that’s for all Los Angeles, our stage is built in the gently sloping natural amphitheater of the Old Zoo, and the nights are peaceful. The 2013 season was our most successful yet: we performed for nearly 38,000 people. The Festival has grown to inlcude more than Shakespeare performances. Audiences enjoy pre-show performances by a variety of local artists, we host the Salon Series (conversations about the intersection of Shakespeare and contemporary culture), and families can attend pre-show workshops about the plays. All of our summer events are entirely free.
In 2011, we moved into an indoor, year-round venue in the Atwater Crossing Complex in Atwater Village. There, we’ve created a 49-seat performance venue, the Independent Studio.
Here, we present new plays that connect us to our history and experimental productions of classical plays. We’re expanding what we think about theater, and engaging our audience in the conversation about what theater can be, and its role in the community.
ISC is committed to fostering diversity in the theater. Theater companies are perfectly situated to take the lead in creating collaborations that span racial, cultural, and economic differences, as well as generational and experiential divides. Independent Shakespeare Co. fully embraces the call to forge such collaborations. Embracing the full range of humanity creates performances that are more vibrant and have greater artistic merit. It is the best way to create theater performances capable of speaking to, and uplifting, our community. Therefore, we seek out artists and theater professionals from across the spectrum of our community. Also crucial to creating theater with universal appeal is to cultivate an equally diverse audience. Coming together to share an arts experience with people of diverse backgrounds, ages, and economic situations is an intrinsically worthwhile experience. Therefore, we create programming that reaches out to a wide and dynamic audience.