The Bard and the Bay

Shakespeare By the Sea, the annual summer tour of works by the prolific Elizabethan playwright, will debut its 15th season at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, with stops at parks throughout the South Bay and even Terranea Resort. We checked in with the non-profit’s artistic director, Lisa Coffi, as the company readied to celebrate this milestone year.

You begin your season with four weeks at Point Fermin Park before heading out for a summer-long tour. Tell us about SBTS’ close connection to the South Bay. 

LC: I started the festival in the South Bay because that’s where I was living and where I wanted to do theatre. Why fight my way for hours on the 405 to commute to Los Angeles when there are beautiful venues on the coastline just begging to be utilized? I was looking for something to do with my summer between semesters, and I definitely wanted to avoid commuting to LA. Doing Shakespeare in the summer is what lots of theatre folks do, and there wasn’t a company operating in the South Bay. There were a lot of naysayers and people who thought I was absolutely crazy for wanting to put up Shakespeare in San Pedro. But I did, and I continue to do so.  

Love is in the air with your play selections this season. What made you choose Romeo and Juliet and Two Gentlemen of Verona?

LC: We chose Romeo and Juliet because I wanted a drama that people weren’t afraid of—meaning the people who book the shows on tour, not our audiences. Those folks aren’t always familiar with Shakespeare, and they shy away from unknown titles, no matter how much I tell them it’ll be a good show. R&J is popular and tells a familiar love story; who wouldn’t like it? I thought the perfect pairing for it was a play that can easily be made into a lighthearted comedy, so I chose Two Gents. They’re both repeats for SBTS, but it’s been long enough that I feel comfortable doing them again. 

Do you have a favorite Shakespeare character?

LC: I don’t, really. I have favorites each season.

Shakespeare’s plays have captured audience imaginations for more than 500 years. How is the Bard relevant to current life and times? 

LC: Funny that, as Shakespeare’s plays have been done again and again, reinterpreted, twisted, but it’s still the same old Shakespeare story lying underneath it all. He tells timeless tales of love, honor, hatred, battles fought and won or lost. Same stories that are being told today, yes?  They’re still relevant.

Do you have a favorite line from Shakespeare?

LC: “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – Julius Caesar