These are not actors you’ve heard of, but they’re probably the best in the world.
They are the young actors who make up Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of London. Two of them are straight out of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, the rest are some of the most experienced and popular Shakespearean actors in the United Kingdom and stars of the BBC and British film.
They will present the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in November. It is one of two venues in North America. It will be co-produced by Matt Cowell and Laura Rafaty, who is the founder, producer and artistic director of NapaShakes (Napa Valley Shakespeare). She said the Globe Theatre troupe was presenting “Much Ado About Nothing” in South America, so she thought, “Why don’t we get them to do North America?” She made a few calls and it was done. “Really, they’re just coming for us, but to make it a bit more economically viable, they added the Huntington Library in Southern California as a second venue.”
Rafaty and NapaShakes first brought the live company to the Napa Valley last December to present “King Lear.” She said, “Anybody who saw that show knows it was a wonderful show and we did a free school show for 1,100 kids, which the Globe created for us.”
That experience fostered a partnership between the two organizations, and the Globe actors “had a spectacular time with the kids,” Rafaty said. “They got mobbed like rock stars and it was really fun. Ever since then, they’ve said they want to come back.”
The four performances at the CIA will be in a 250-seat theater created in the second-floor barrel room. They will be 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 15. Tickets are $65 and available at napashakes.org/tickets.
Doors will open an hour before each performance and CIA food and wines will be for sale. Packages for lunch and dinner at the Greystone restaurant also are available. Following Sunday’s performance, a cast reception catered by the CIA Greystone will be held ($35) with $25 benefiting NapaShakes.
Besides the Globe Theatre live performance, the Globe troupe will be featured in “Macbeth” at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8, at the Cameo Cinema. Tickets are $20. “We’ve already sold a bunch of tickets, so it looks like it will sell out again,” Rafaty said. Tickets are available online and at the Cameo box office.
“Much Ado About Nothing,” a tale about two couples, will be presented in typical Globe fashion, Rafaty said, “really musical, very romantic and really fun.” Eight actors will be doing two or three roles on an “Elizabethan-booth style stage, which is authentic to the period,” she added.
Tickets are selling well and the lunch and dinner packages are almost sold out. Rafaty said it’s expensive ($70,000) to bring the show to the CIA, and with only 1,000 tickets, they need to sell the rest of them. Even so, Rafaty said, “A very nice man, Antonio Castellucci, helped underwrite the cost of being at the CIA, which was a godsend.”
The Globe actors aren’t able to present a free school performance this year, but will go to a classroom at St. Helena High School and maybe a school in Napa for a question-and-answer session.
The show almost didn’t happen. Rafaty said, “We had a very difficult time finding a venue this year. It was next to impossible, but at the last minute, the CIA rescued us.
“It was very hard. People don’t like events in wineries but what they don’t understand is sometimes there’s incredible art (there) when people come together. Otherwise it wouldn’t happen.”
One bit of good news is that Rafaty asked for housing for the dozen people that make up the actors and crew, both men and women, and she said, “We were overwhelmed with people giving us housing. We have all sorts of great guest houses where the actors will be staying here.” It should be noted the term “actor” refers to both men and women. Although there were no female actors in Shakespeare’s time, the Globe Theatre uses both men and women.
NapaShakes, which started in 2014, is dedicated to bringing the world’s greatest Shakespeare and classical theater to the Napa Valley. Rafaty said home is “wherever we can find it.”
“The idea of NapaShakes is that it is not going to be at any one venue or any one time. We’re going to do it (put on a performance) when the actors can do it. We’re in discussion with some pretty heavy actors to come here when they’ve got breaks in their schedules,” Rafaty said.
NapaShakes’ goal is one major show every year, along with a series of screenings at the Cameo Cinema, a one-person show and a musical event, which could involve an orchestra or chamber music with narration.
Next year, 2016, will be a really big year for Shakespeare lovers throughout the world, since it will mark 400 years since the death of the playwright. So everybody in the world is celebrating Shakespeare, Rafaty said. For instance, Frances McDormand is doing “Macbeth” at the Berkeley Rep and although it’s not Napa Valley, it’s worth seeing because “great Shakespeare is worth driving for.”