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All's Well That Ends Well

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For centuries Shakespeare’s “problem plays” saw few productions. But the last quarter century has seen a rise in the production rate of hitherto rarely performed plays like Measure for Measure, Coriolanus, and The Winters Tale. And yet, All’s Well That Ends Well is rarely staged and remains chiefly known for its memorable title.

No doubt producers have the same problem as audiences with the plot. For a play that trumpets its favorable ending, it is very hard to put aside the Eeewww factor one feels with Shakespeare’s deliberately ambiguous conclusion. However, the intrepid Independent Shakespeare Co. (ISC) has chosen to inaugurate its new indoor performing space with a production of the play.

An audience can’t help but fall in love with Helena, one of Shakespeare’s many captivating heroines. She is a woman filled with grit, determination, and keen intelligence. She has long been in love with Bertram but feels her position as a physician’s daughter is too far below his station to ever win him. The tables are turned when she cures the King, and he offers her any noble in his court to marry. She, of course, chooses Bertram.

Horrified by the match, Bertram weds her under duress and then flees to the army, never consummating the marriage. The rest of the plot is taken up with Helena’s machinations to make Bertram truly her husband.

Director Melissa Chalsma has edited the play down to a swift two hours, and the result is an acid-tinged fairy tale played with absolute clarity on a chessboard. The action is nimble and the language is direct and comprehensible.

April Fritz is a wonderfully appealing Helena who keeps her bold fortitude just below the surface. Evan Lewis Smith is handsome enough to catch Helena’s eye, and he makes a properly petulant and snobbish Bertram. Chalsma does double duty as the Countess de Rousillon and is equal parts warmth and ditziness -- like one of those odd, but endearing matrons from a screwball comedy. Daniel Jimenez’s Parolles feels a bit oversized for the space, but he certainly mines every double-entendre in the script.

ISC’s All’s Well That End Well is much more than an opportunity for Bardolators to cross one off their list. In choosing to highlight rather than tone down Shakespeare’s ambiguities, the production is thought-provoking and has a distinctly modern tone. While Helena claiming her wayward Bertram may never delight in the way that Beatrice and Benedick's union does, the production’s strength may inspire you to reappraise the play’s viability.

ISC Studio    March 24 – April 22, 2018



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.