MAY 15, 2003
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, mstepanovich@csub.edu

CSUB presents Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors"

Mirth, merriment and just good old-fashioned fun are in store when the curtain rises on California State University, Bakersfield's production of William Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors."

The bard's laugh-filled frolic of misidentity and confusion opens Thursday, May 22, at 8 p.m. in the Dore Theater on the CSUB campus. Performances are also scheduled on May 23 and 24 at 8 p.m., May 29, 30 and 31 at 8 p.m., and a matinee performance on Sunday, June 1, at 2 p.m.

"Come and have a good laugh," said Mandy Rees, CSUB theater-arts professor and director of the play. "It's that kind of play.

"I'm very excited about the play. The rehearsals are really starting to click, and the cast is having fun. It's fun to perform, very lighthearted. It'll be a grand show."

And play-goers will get more than just the show: Rees and company will stage a pre-show in front of the Dore Theater reminiscent of Renaissance English fairs. Those who have attended Shakespeare festivals in Ashland, Ore., or in Utah will be familiar with the pre-show. "In Utah they're called 'Green Shows," because they're presented on 'the green' before the play begins," Rees said. "Our pre-show will be an Ephesian fantasy." "Comedy of Errors" is set in the city of Ephesus, an ancient Greek city in what is today modern Turkey, hence the reference to an Ephesian fair. "It will be Aladdinish," she said. "We'll have belly dancers, games, a fortune teller, and other little surprises."

The "Ephesian fantasy" pre-show will begin at 7:20 p.m. each night, and at 1:20 p.m. at the June 1 matinee show. The fun will last until about 7:55 p.m., and the curtain rises at 8 p.m.

Then the fun really starts as confusion reigns in one of Shakespeare's earliest plays and also one of his shortest. Rees said that while "Comedy of Errors" was first printed in 1623, its earliest known performance was in 1594. But many scholars believe it was written much earlier because of the thematic resemblances to others of Shakespeare's early works.

Rees said "Comedy of Errors" is based on a play by Roman playwright Plautus, "Menaechmi," a tale of a merchant from the Greek city of Syracuse who has twin sons. He takes one of them on a trip, but during the adventure the son becomes separated from his father and is taken to be raised by a childless trader. The father is heartbroken and dies. When news reaches Syracuse, the other brother's name is changed to that of his missing brother. The action begins when the renamed brother visits the city where the missing brother is, and encounters a number of misadventures due to mistaken identity. The two men eventually meet, decide to return to Syracuse, and, ahem, all's well that ends well.

Shakespeare adopted a great deal of his plot from this story, she said, but added several key changes. He moved the action to Ephesus, which is more associated with magic arts and early Christianity. He also added twin servants for humor content, borrowing them from another of Plautus' plays. In Comedy of Errors, the beginning is similar: the two sets of twins are on a trading excursion, the boat splits in a storm and both sets of twins are separated. Many years pass, and the master and servant from Syracuse go looking for their twin brothers. They wind up in Ephesus, where their twins live, but of course donít see them and encounter many misadventures before theyíre finally united. ìItís really funny stuff, Rees said.

The cast is large and shy 29 actors and Rees was able to fill all the roles with students. We have some very experienced performers in the cast, and we also have some new faces, some who are just starting in theater, she said.

Rees is particularly high on two of her lead actors:

  • Judd Johnson, a senior, who has been recruited by several noted graduate schools, and has finally settled on the University of Florida.
  • Sam Yaeck, who studied at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria before returning to Bakersfield and enrolling at CSUB.

    They're both hysterical, Rees said. They have great comic energy.

    Tickets for Comedy of Errors are $10 general admission, $8 for faculty, staff and seniors 60 or older, and $5 for students with ID. The box office opens for each performance one hour before curtain time.

    For more information, please call the CSUB Performing Arts Department at (661) 664-3093.