Theater group brings Shakespeare to Philly

An alumnus is the founder of a Philly-based Shakespeare theater group.

Carlo Campbell (left) and Cathy Simpson of Revolution Shakespeare’s, “King John,” rehearse in Hawthorne Park, Sept. 9 VEENA PRAKRIYA FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

William Shakespeare isn’t usually a hot topic outside of high school English classes, but Griffin Stanton-Ameisen aims to revive the playwright’s work.

With three productions under his belt, Stanton-Ameisen, a 2007 theater alumnus, is both the founder and artistic director of Revolution Shakespeare. He is also the producer of the troupe’s latest play, which will premiere at the end of the month.

Revolution Shakespeare is a Philadelphia-based theater company founded in August 2013 that produces plays either written or inspired by William Shakespeare in Hawthorne Park every fall.

After producing “Macbeth” in 2014 and “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in 2015, they will perform “King John” this season.

“I think Shakespeare is always relevant,” Stanton-Ameisen said. “The reason the plays have lasted so long is because thematically they still are important and are the same issues that we are dealing with, just probably on different scales and with slightly more flowery language.”

“The themes and the language make me keep coming back to them,” he added. “Specifically with ‘King John’ and the political atmosphere as it is right now with us gearing towards the election. ‘King John’ is about who is the rightful king. … Their opinions switch at the drop of a dime. The play seems all too relevant to do today.”

Revolution Shakespeare’s “King John” features not only Stanton-Ameisen but a number of other Temple students and instructors.

Dan Kern is a retired theater professor who worked as the head of directing and later the head of acting. Kern taught an advanced acting class — which Stanton-Ameisen took — that was dedicated to Shakespeare. Kern is now the director of Revolution Shakespeare’s production of “King John.”

“Griffin was certainly one of the most promising of my students,” Kern said.

“Griffin is a charming, positive, and enthusiastic producer,” he added. “He’s been great to work with and I’m tremendously proud of him and his company.”

“Dan changed the trajectory for me,” Stanton-Ameisen said. “That was the first time I was exposed to performing Shakespeare. That launched me into going to graduate school and being more interested in doing classical work, and then coming back to Philly and focusing on Shakespeare performance.”

Adrienne Hertler, another Temple alumna in the cast, is Stanton-Ameisen’s cousin.

“This is my first time working with him but I will say that it has been a great experience,” Hertler said. “He really looks out for all of us and cares so deeply for all of Revolution Shakespeare’s productions.”

“King John” will stay true to its Shakespearean roots by keeping all of Shakespeare’s text with the addition of original music and Shakespeare’s words as lyrics.

The play will have two preview nights on Wednesday and Thursday in Hawthorne Park at 6:30 p.m., and then have its grand opening on Friday.

After opening night, Revolution Shakespeare will present “King John” every evening at 6:30 p.m. until Oct. 1, with the exception of Sept. 25, when the show will begin at 1 p.m.

Moving forward, Stanton-Ameisen and Revolution Shakespeare plan to continue to bring Shakespeare to Philadelphia.

“It’s either making theater or teaching theater,” he said. “That’s all I want to do.”

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