Interested in meeting a highly acclaimed, national award-winning Shakespearean director with a deep commitment to community and public service? Meet Barry Edelstein, the Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director of the Old Globe. Edelstein is a stage director, producer, author and educator. Recognized as one of the leading American authorities on the works of Shakespeare-he has directed nearly half of the Bard’s plays.
Edelstein said the Old Globe’s distinguished history and breadth of artistic mission were among the key factors attracting him to the position.
“It’s one of the country’s great theaters,” Edelstein said. “There’s just no doubt about that. You make a list of the top 10 regional theaters in the United States, and the Globe is on it.”
He will direct the Globe-commissioned world premiere of The Wanderers, (first seen locally at the Old Globe’s Powers New Plays Festival,) this month. The play runs April 6-May 6, (Opening night: Thursday, April 13.)
Written by Anna Ziegler, celebrated playwright and writer of The Last Match, (The Old Globe Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company; Craig Noel Award nominee for Outstanding New Play.) The audience is drawn into a humorous, insightful and mysterious new drama, exploring the hidden connections between seemingly disparate people.
The production offers an intriguing puzzle and a deeply sympathetic look at modern love.
The Wanderers tells the story of Esther and Yoni, a shy, young Orthodox couple who meet through an arranged marriage. Abe and Julia, high profile celebrities, are involved in a dangerous, flirtatious correspondence, despite being married to other people. The Wanderers comes alive through Ziegler’s unique writing style and under the superb direction of Edelstein.
Appointed Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre in 2012, Edelstein’s Globe directing credits include The Winter’s Tale, starring Billy Campbell, his directorial debut with the Globe, the first Shakespearean play to be staged in the Globe’s indoor theatre in over a decade.
He expertly directed the world premiere of Rain, written by Somerset Maugham at the Old Globe in March 2016. Also, he directed Picasso at the Lapin Agile at the Globe, in addition to directing Hamlet.
“Southern California really needs some precipitation, and I’m beyond excited to bring it here in the form of Rain, a remarkable new work of music-theatre,” said Edelstein at the time of his musical theatrical debut, where he made the classic story of scandal in 1924 come to life.
Other Globe directing credits include: Othello, starring Richard Thomas, Blair Underwood and Kristen Connolly and The Twenty-seventh Man, written by Nathan Englander and starring Hal Linden.
As the Director of the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab conservatory from 2007-2012, Edelstein directed Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, also the Public’s Broadway production of The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino.
His additional Shakespearean directorial credits include: As You Like It starring Gwyneth Paltrow; Richard III starring John Turturro; the Lucille Lortel Award-wining revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons; the world premiere of Steve Martin’s The Underpants; (which he commissioned); and Moliere’s The Misanthrope starring Uma Thurman in her stage debut.
Yet with all his past achievements, today he is looking toward the Globe’s latest season.
“Our 2017-2018 season is as varied and exciting as any I’ve had the privilege to present,” said Edelstein.
“The lineup includes everything that makes the Old Globe one of the country’s preeminent theatres: Broadway-caliber musical theatre, sumptuously produced classics, and powerful and innovative world premieres, all created by artists who are working at the very top-rank of the contemporary and American and international theatre.”
“It’s also a diverse season, in every sense. There are comedies and dramas, familiar and also brand-new forms. And it represents a broad range of cultural perspectives, modeling on our stages the pluralistic America in which we live. This season of work embodies the values of transformation, inclusion, and excellence that are central to the Globe’s mission. Each show provides a sparkling, fun, engaging and vibrant evening of great theatre, offering something for every San Diegan. I can’t wait to bring this bounty and variety to our audience.”
Edelstein has been instrumental in bringing the Globe’s works to other communities through Globe for All, the theater’s cornerstone touring program.
Performed free of charge in nontraditional venues, including homeless shelters, community centers, including the Fourth District Seniors Resource Center, the Naval Base in San Diego, Veterans Village of San Diego, Father Joe’s Villages, Las Colinas Women’s Detention and Reentry Facility, and Malcolm X Library. These productions give audiences an intimate, compelling experience, fostering a shared sense of community between performers and spectators. He directed All’s Well That Ends Well as the inaugural production of the Globe For All community tour, with other works including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night following.
“We strive to make theater matter with a deep commitment to theater and arts engagement, and Globe For All has become a top national program … over the past 5 years,” Edelstein said.
Edelstein created a program called Thinking Shakespeare Live! This is a 90 minute exploration of Shakespeare’s language, led by Edelstein, performed several times a year since 2014 and assisted by 3 professional classical actors, with methods he imparted to actors in the rehearsal room, performed live on stage.
His book Thinking Shakespeare: A How-To Guide for Student Actors, Directors, and Anyone Else Who Wants to Feel More Comfortable with the Bard, is the standard text on American Shakespearean acting, New York Magazine called it “A must read for all actors.” He is also the author of Bardisms: Shakespeare for All Occasions.
The Globe, along with Edelstein, will long be known as a creator of world-class theatre productions and equally as a hub for participatory art-making, fostering cross-cultural and intergenerational shared experience transversing socioeconomic and geographic boundaries.
He has a way of magically transforming involved and heavy “Old English” material into modern-day language with relatable anecdotes. His delivery and compelling way of introducing Shakespeare to new audiences in addition to his unassuming character, combines humility with creativity, making him a joy to be around.
Recently, Edelstein shared some of his experience, wisdom and wit with L’CHAIM magazine.
L’CHAIM magazine: How did you choose theater and what do you like most about it?
Barry Edelstein: Theater chose me. I attended public school in New Jersey at Fairlawn which had a good theater program. The teachers and the people in the theater were of such quality. Also, we were so close to New York City. I got hooked! I had fun, and a creative outlook made going to school a joy. When I was younger than 10, I attended shows on Broadway. It created more of an awareness of theater.
You don’t go to theatre, you are taken.
One important aspect of theater is that people who don’t fit in anywhere else find empathy and support. Theater welcomes everybody! Theater brings us the subjective experience of others, increasing the power of community and generating empathy.
For children, theater is a magical playground. Actors are the number one subculture of grownups who are wonderful with kids. They love to pretend. My daughter does school plays and is aching to write. Both of my children are unusually good at sitting through shows.”
L’CHAIM: Did you have a mentor growing up?
BE: I was blessed by great teachers in high school drama as productions were introduced in a beautiful, moving way. They held the key to nourish and guide me through the process. I was lucky enough to study at Oxford which is close to Stratford, where I could truly experience Shakespeare firsthand.
I met Joseph Papp in his later years through, (the American actor and friend of Edelstein’s), Kevin Kline. I felt inspired and empowered.
(Papp, (originally Joseph Papirofsky), was an American theatrical producer and director, founding The Public Theatre and Shakespeare in the Park in 1954. (He made the works of Shakespeare accessible to the public, much as Edelstein has done for the San Diego community through the Old Globe.)
L’CHAIM: What advice would you give to those entering the field of theater?
BE: BE: Be patient and persistent, be specific. I ask students: “Why do you want to be an actor? Do you want to be famous?” These are two very different things today in our culture.
The more single minded a person is, the higher chance for success. The most successful people are those who can say things such as: “I want to perform Bach on the cello.” You have to find your North Star.
At 21 years old, I knew I wanted to direct Shakespeare in American Theatre and this became my North Star. I always knew I wanted to direct Shakespeare and have landed in a great place.
L’CHAIM: What is exciting for you about being at the Old Globe?
BE: It is exciting to be a part of an 83 year old theatre. It is one of the grandest and biggest theaters in the nation, the fifth largest in the United States outside of New York. I am able to work with extraordinary people such as Maria Aitken (director of The Importance of Being Earnest).
San Diegans tend not to know what a precious asset we have in theatre here. In addition to the Old Globe, we have the San Diego Repertory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse in addition to may other theatres throughout San Diego County.
Edelstein spoke highly of the Old Globe staff and board, including the creative individuals comprised of producers, director and actors.
He also shared that through the Old Globe, there is a direction towards inclusion, diversity and equity. These areas are applied to theatre with plays for every population.
The upcoming 2018 line-up of productions at the Old Globe Theater includes: American Mariachi by Jose Cruz Gonzalez, directed by James Vasquez, in association with Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company; a Globe commissioned world premiere of The Wanderers, written by Anna Ziegler and directed by Barry Edelstein. A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Ursula Rani Sarma, directed by Carey Perloff; and Native Gardens, by Karen Zacarias, directed by Edward Torres.
For more information, visit the website at theoldglobe.org Call for tickets and information: (619) 23-GLOBE [234-5623] The Old Globe is located in the heart of Balboa Park.