For Woodward Shakespeare’s ‘Comedy of Errors,’ an earlier start to the season and a new face as a director

Woodward Shakespeare Festival welcomes a new director for the company’s first production of the season, “The Comedy of Errors.”

Pictured above: Katie Osle, left, plays Dromio of Syracuse, and Gabriel Biswas plays Dromio of Ephesus, in ‘The Comedy of Errors.’ Photo: Woodward Shakespeare Festival.

Ellicia Elliott is the artistic director of The Rude Mechanicals, eastern Washington’s premier Shakespeare theatre company, and is a big deal in the Shakespeare theater world. (In 2016, she was one of 12 directors chosen worldwide to participate in a directing studio at London’s historic Globe Theatre.) Now’s making one of the Bard’s silliest comedies come alive on the Woodward stage.

The free production opens 8 p.m. Thursday, May 2 and continues Thursdays-Saturdays through May 18. (There is no show Saturday, May 4.)

Here’s a rundown:

First off, doesn’t it seem a little early for the Woodward Shakespeare Festival? It just turned May.


And think of how nice it will be for opening weekend. (Actually, be warned that it can get downright chilly at night in the park when it hasn’t been baking hot during the day. Bring a wrap.) The festival is doing three shows this season. The second, “Richard II,” opening July 5, will be done indoors (at Cal Arts Academy’s Severance Theatre) to beat the heat. And the third, “Antony and Cleopatra,” will be back at the park, but not until a Sept. 19 opening.

What is the play about?

“The Comedy of Errors” tells the story of two sets of identical twins who were accidentally separated at birth. That’s all you really need to know. There are mistaken identities, wrongful beatings, a near-seduction and false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness, and demonic possession. Elliott says the play is a great introduction to Shakespeare because it’s it’s light-hearted, funny, and quick.

So I don’t have to study up beforehand?

You can read the synopsis if you want, but it isn’t crucial. “If done correctly, it is much easier to understand a Shakespeare play when watching it, rather than when trying to read it,” Elliott says. “This play was the catalyst for so many movies (think ‘Big Business’ or ‘Twins’) and situational comedies on television. Even though this story is hundreds of years old, the audience will be able to connect to and really enjoy the play.”

I start to squirm during really long plays. Should I be worried?

Nope. Elliott edited the text to about 90 minutes long — still all Shakespeare’s words, but not so many that your legs get numb.

Some directors use really weird time periods and settings when doing Shakespeare. Is this one set on Jupiter’s third moon or performed running through water sprinklers?

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There are no such head-scratchers for this show. “My director’s concept is one of a land inspired by vaudeville,” Elliott says. Slapstick (think of the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers), burlesque, magic and music will help set the story, time period, and world of the play.

Has she ever directed free Shakespeare?

“I have not directed for a free Shakespeare in the Park program before. I absolutely love the fact that Woodward Shakespeare Festival is making sure Shakespeare is accessible to everyone. No, and Elliott is excited. “So many times, ticket prices to theatre productions are so expensive that many people who would be interested in attending, don’t. I was one of those people growing up. So I’m very excited to be a part of this awesome program.”

What is the biggest challenge of producing at Woodward Park?

There’s only one generator to provide power for the lights, sound and backstage monitor. But when you’re in show biz, you work with what ya got. Says Elliott: “What is exciting and a testament to the actors is, even if there were to be no special effects, sound, or fancy lighting, the story is still incredibly entertaining. As long as we have light on the stage for the actors to see and for the audience to see them, things will be great.”

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Margie Vogt

    Thanks for the heads up on this show, I hadn’t seen any publicity. I love this play! I was introduced to it a few years back when my daughter played one of the Dromeos in the 2nd Space production. It’s hilarious with the mistaken identities & slapstick (literally) humor! I hope I can see this production. This is definitely fun, easy Shakespeare!


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