All the World’s a Stage

The New Swan Shakespeare Festival will return to UCI for a fifth season this summer in its unique and intimate venue under the stars on Gateway Plaza.

This year’s plays are “As You Like It,” directed by Eli Simon, Chancellor’s Professor of drama; and “Hamlet,” directed by Beth Lopes, who earned an M.F.A. in directing at UCI in 2011. The New Swan repertory reexamines Shakespeare’s works for a modern audience: “As You Like It” is a “ridin’ the rails” production set in the Great Depression, while “Hamlet” is told as a ghost story, conjuring Hamlet’s deceased father as a cast character.

“Shakespeare’s theater was for the people rather than an elite cultural event; thus we created the festival in order to share our work with the widest possible cross section of our community,” says Simon, the festival’s artistic director. “The New Swan Theater itself was designed to foster a direct, visceral and egalitarian relationship between actors and audience.”

Assembling the 16-ton, modular, mini-Elizabethan structure is a production in itself. It takes two days to move the theater from storage to Gateway Plaza, another three days to set it up and two weeks to make it operational. (To view a time-lapse video of the construction, see

“We want our audience to feel the emotions, actions and texts as deeply as New Swan Shakespeare Festival actors, directors, designers, and creative and production teams,” Simon says.