Joseph Marcell announced as special guest

Joseph Marcell

The La Grande Shakespeare Company is the bearer of good news this summer, boasting a celebrity guest, a new season of shows and a special partnership with the La Grande Arts Commission.

Joseph Marcell

Perhaps best known to mainstream audiences as Geoffrey, the butler on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Joseph Marcell is known in the world of theatre for his passion for Shakespeare.

After nearly five decades of acting and acquiring stage credits in “As You Like It,” “King Lear,” “Othello,” “Romeo and Juliet” and numerous others, Marcell remains passionate about being part of the William Shakespeare experience.

He said part of his interest with Shakespeare is that the words can stand on their own.

“That’s why they’ve lasted so long,” he said, and that’s why The Globe Theatre in London so much focus on the plays.

“It’s not about the editors, directors or even the actors,” he said. “It’s the plays themselves. (As audiences and as performers,) we’re beginning to appreciate that.”

Marcell, who is also on the board of The Globe, said he is especially captivated by characters like King Lear, Othello and Titus Andronicus.

“Tragic heroes force you to examine yourself,” he said. “The idea of revenge and control fascinates me.”

Marcell will play the title character in “Titus Andronicus” at 7 p.m. Aug. 10 through Aug. 12. The La Grande Shakespeare Company show, held in Riverside Park, will be free and open to the public.

“Here we have someone who has spent almost two years touring the world as King Lear in the premiere Shakespeare company in the universe, joining our show” La Grande Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Grant Turner said. “To offer it for free is insane.”

2017-2018 season

In addition to “Titus Andronicus,” the La Grande Shakespeare Company is preparing for a complete season of shows.

  • “Much Ado About Nothing,” October 2017
  • “The Fantasticks,” in partnership with the Elgin Opera House, February 2018
  • “Twelfth Night,” April 2018
  • “Measure for Measure,” June 2018
  • A collection of one-acts, TBD


A partnership for the books

“Titus Andronicus” was made possible with a significant boost from the La Grande Arts Commission, which has donated funds and additional resources to help the Shakespeare Company afford to bring Marcell out to La Grande, as well as to promote the show. The Arts Commission is also donating the use of Riverside Park for its performances, at no cost to the troupe or to the audience members.

Turner said he hopes the partnership will also result in a permanent stage for Riverside Park, which musicians and theatre groups can use for years to come.

“This is a really amazing thing the La Grande Arts Commission is bringing to La Grande,” Turner said.

Commission Chairperson Evna Stacey said that if the show goes as well as the Arts Commission is expecting, this partnership could develop into an annual Renaissance fair with a Shakespeare component.

“Part of the La Grande Arts Commission’s new mission is to create an identity for La Grande that is not just about its agriculture, but also about its art and music and theatre,” Stacey said. “We’re not just a pitstop on the way to Baker City.”

To learn more about how Joseph Marcell came to join a La Grande production, click here.

For more about “Titus Andronicus,” click here.

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