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Guest Directors Fill Void at Ojai Festival

Susan Kelejian takes the helm of a Moliere adaptation and Tony Potter puts on 'Merry Wives of Windsor.'


With artistic director Paul Backer in Tibet this summer, the Ojai Shakespeare Festival is using guest directors for its afternoon and evening performances.

Opening Friday, the festival includes a Moliere adaptation, here titled "The Numb-Skull of Normandie," and Shakespeare's own "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Susan Kelejian, who directs "Numb-Skull," is an American Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate who recently moved to Ojai from Los Angeles.

Tony Potter, who commutes from the San Fernando Valley to direct "Merry Wives," has served as technical director on more than 40 Shakespeare productions and directed several others. Nineteen of those shows were for the Globe Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Potter's extensive technical background includes several backstage stints in his home state of Colorado, work on the road crews of Motley Crue and Arlo Guthrie ("That was like night and day," he said without elaboration), and on Los Angeles television shows. He said he began directing when a friend encouraged him to, "because I was always giving him suggestions."

His introduction to Shakespeare, he said, was when "I was forced to read 'Macbeth' in high school, which completely turned me off. Shakespeare isn't meant to be read, but performed. I was working backstage in Colorado on a road production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and they had flash pots, fairies that flew around and I said, 'Hey, this isn't Shakespeare, it's fun!' "

Since then, he's specialized in broad physical comedy, which he promises much of in this "Merry Wives."

"Shakespeare wrote it as a command performance--the queen wanted to see [Sir John] Falstaff [from "Henry IV, Parts I and II"] in love," he said. "By most accounts, he wrote it in 14 days. Mostly it's physical comedy--the 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink' kind of jokes, to quote Monty Python. You can see the Three Stooges in this. Sometimes, I ask my cast, 'What would Jack and Chrissy (from TV's "Three's Company") do here?' If you're afraid of physical comedy, this is not the show to do."

Potter's technical orientation was in evidence the moment he decided to acquire a script, which he downloaded from MIT's Internet site.

"I just typed 'Shakespeare' on my Web browser and got about 1,000 hits [references]. Then I typed in 'First Quarto,' which is the edition I wanted, and got three hits. It took about 3 1/2 hours to download; the file is 273 kilobytes long.

"After I did my cuts, bringing it down to 255 kilobytes, I printed up copies for the actors at Kinko's. The cost came to about $5 per script, including the cover, which is about what it would cost to buy professional scripts from the bookstore."

And, if you are technology buff, a lot more fun.

* The Ojai Shakespeare Festival opens Friday and runs through Aug. 18 at Libbey Park, Ojai Avenue at Signal Street in Ojai. "The Merry Wives of Windsor" plays at 8 p.m. all nights; adult admission is $10 ($8 teens and seniors) Thursdays; $14 ($10 teens and seniors) Friday and Sunday; $15 ($12 teens and seniors) Saturday. "Numb-Skull of Normandie" plays at 6 p.m. Fridays; 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission for all performances is $8, $7 for teens and seniors. Children under 13 are admitted free to all performances of both shows when accompanied by an adult. For reservations, Visa or MasterCard sales or further information, call 646-9455.


Casting Call: Cabrillo Music Theatre's auditions for "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" will be held by appointment only Saturday in North Hollywood, and Sunday in Newbury Park. Saturday's auditions are for the roles of Narrator (female specified), Jacob, Joseph and Pharaoh; Sunday's are for principals, chorus and singers.

For appointments or further information, call 497-8613. The production is also looking for an existing children's or youth choir; those interested should contact Kevin Traxler at 520-0043.

Gothic Productions will hold open auditions for Patrick Hamilton's "Angel Street" (model for the film "Gaslight") from noon-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Road in Thousand Oaks. Jim Didderich is director. For further information, call 381-2747.

The California Shakespeare Company will hold auditions for "Macbeth" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the company's theater, 6685 Princeton Ave. in Moorpark. No appointment is necessary, but bring a prepared monologue and be ready to read cold from the text for director William Fisher. For further information, call 498-3354.

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