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Los Angeles Spotlight: August 2006
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DC Metro Spotlight: August 2006

San Francisco Spotlight: August 2006

In for a Pound

By New York City
A publicity photo for The Merchant of Venice
(© Kevin Berne)
A publicity photo for The Merchant of Venice
(© Kevin Berne)
Wager only what you can pay, or only those things from which you can really bear to part. That life lesson has thrilled and enlightened audiences for decades, which is probably why William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice continues to be a popular favorite among audiences, albeit a controversial choice for some companies due to its perceived anti-Semitism. At California Shakespeare Theater, director Daniel Fish takes the reins of this classic, bringing back his own brand of Shakespearean drama -- the same brand that won him acclaim for his Measure for Measure in 2003 (Burns Amphitheater, August 9-September 3).

Bat your eyelashes and prepare to flirt with the most romantic production of the summer as the national tour of The Light in the Piazza begins this month. Award-winning composer Adam Guettel, grandson of the legendary Richard Rodgers, teamed up with playwright Craig Lucas to deliver the story of a mother and daughter traveling through the Tuscan countryside and a young Italian man they meet along the young way. The blockbuster musical snagged six Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, and two Outer Critics Circle Awards. Broadway favorite Christine Andreas, Elena Shaddow, and David Burnham head the cast (Orpheum Theatre, August 1-August 27).

Also making the trek from Broadway to the Bay Area is the national tour of Brooklyn The Musical. Songwriter Mark Schoenfeld and singer Barri McPherson penned this unusual show, which tells the fairy tale story of a young girl's geographical and spiritual journey in and around New York's sidewalks and street corners. The touring production gets added stardust with former American Idol star Diana DeGarmo playing the production's title role of Brooklyn, alongside Tony winners Melba Moore and Cleavant Derricks, Julie Reiber and Lee Morgan (San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, August 9-August 13).

You can get inside the actor's studio, not with James Lipton, but via Sanford Meisner, the revered thespian and teacher whose student roster included the likes of Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Grace Kelly, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon, and Robert Duvall. Well, not Meisner, per se, but Jim Jarrett, the writer/actor/director of Talk Is Cheap...Dreams Are Priceless, which gets its world premiere at the Magic Theatre. A student of the late, great man, Jarrett recalls not only his experiences with the lettered pedagogue, but brings to life the memories of fellow Meisner students to create a one-man-show filled with several voices (August 9-August 27).

Expect the unexpected at the 12th annual Summer Improv Festival, which showcases the Bay Area's most talented improvisational troupes. Among the expected highlights are Warp Speed: An Improvised Trek, which invites audiences to help navigate a starship to the great beyond. You can help suggest song titles for Spontaneous Broadway, where actors must pass an "audition" by belting out never before heard Broadway tunes that must pass muster with the audience. This festival is great for young ones since not only is silence not considered golden, it's completely discouraged (Bayview Theatre, August 3- August 27).


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