We bring Los Angeles together through exuberant, surprising productions of classical plays as well as new works.
We address the inequity of access to the performing arts through free and low-cost programming.
We create theater that is dynamic, inclusive and accessible; enriching our community and reaching new theater audiences.
ISC was founded in 1998 by actors sharing a passion for classical works. We focused on stripping back the conventions of contemporary theater and discovering efficient, entertaining ways to bring great works to a modern audience. Our first production, Shakespeare’s Henry V, was produced with a budget of $800 at The Present Company Theatorium on New York’s Lower East Side. This busy, downtown arts venue booked productions at all conceivable hours. Henry V played Tuesday nights at 10:00 pm, following the 8:00 pm performance of another company’s Pigoletto: the opera Rigoletto featuring a man in pig suit.
ISC relocated to Los Angeles in 2001, producing several productions in small venues. In 2003, we partnered with the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles to produce Free Shakespeare in Barnsdall Park. The first performance of the outdoor, free festival was attended by 14 people and a dog. By 2009, the summer festival performed for nearly 12,000 patrons, outgrowing Barnsdall Park.
2010 marked the start of a new chapter in our history: the summer festival moved to Griffith Park. It’s an ideal spot. It’s truly the park that’s for all Los Angeles, our stage is built in the gently sloping natural amphitheater of the Old Zoo, and the nights are peaceful. Since 2013 we have performed to over 40,000 people each and every summer. The Festival has grown to include more than Shakespeare performances. Audiences enjoy pre-show performances by a variety of local artists, we host the Salon Series (conversations about the intersection of Shakespeare and contemporary culture), and families can attend pre-show workshops about the plays. All of our summer events are entirely free.
In 2011, we moved into an indoor, year-round venue in the Atwater Crossing Complex in Atwater Village. We now occupy a 65-seat performance venue, the Independent Studio.
At the Studio, we present new plays that connect us to our history and experimental productions of classical plays. We’re expanding what we think about theater, and engaging our audience in the conversation about what theater can be, and its role in the community.
2018 marked a turning point in ISC's history with three major milestones. We celebrated the 15th anniversary of presenting free Shakespeare in Los Angeles city parks and, due to the success of activating the Old Zoo into a cultural venue, in Fall 2019 the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks will break ground on the Griffith Park Performing Arts Stage Project, a $4 million enterprise to build a permanent stage at our site. Also in 2018, ISC expanded our indoor, year-round Studio. This performance venue is our home to develop new work, explore classical plays, and teach classes.
With this phenomenal growth, Independent Shakespeare Co. embraces a culture of possibility.
ISC has been at the forefront of the movement to foster diversity in the theater, on stage and in the audience.
Theater companies are perfectly situated to take the lead in creating collaborations that span racial, cultural, and economic differences, as well as generational and experiential divides. Independent Shakespeare Co. fully embraces the call to forge such collaborations. Embracing the full range of humanity creates performances that are more vibrant and have greater artistic merit. It is the best way to create theater performances capable of speaking to, and uplifting, our community. Therefore, we seek out artists and theater professionals from across the spectrum of our community. Also crucial to creating theater with universal appeal is to cultivate an equally diverse audience. Coming together to share an arts experience with people of diverse backgrounds, ages, and economic situations is an intrinsically worthwhile experience. Therefore, we create programming that reaches out to a wide and dynamic audience.
ISC is a 501c(3) not-for-profit organization.
ISC is the 2018 recipient of the Paul Robeson Citation Award from Actors Equity Foundation and Actors Equity Union. The award honors individuals or organizations that best exemplify and practice the principles to which Robeson devoted his life: commitment to the freedom of expression and conscience, belief in the Artist's responsibility to society and respect for the individual and dedication and concern for service to all humankind.
ISC is the 2015 recipient of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle highest honor, the Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater.