Livermore Shakespeare Festival begins its summer season June 21 with productions of "The Liar" by David Ives, and Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," set in immediate postwar Livermore.

"The Liar," a wild 17th century farce by Pierre Corneille, and adapted by Ives just a few years ago, retains its rhyming verse but changes and sharpens the comic sensibilities for a modern ear.

Kate, the wildly recalcitrant love interest, will be right at home when "Shrew" opens at Concannon Vineyard, because that's where the young woman and daughter of the owner has been working through the war years.

The piece has a Rosie the Riveter vibe to it, right down to the role of Kate, who has spent the war years working on her father's vineyard.

And, although pleased the war is over and the soldiers are returning home, Kate is not the least bit happy that she'll have to give up her job and turn in over to a man. That pretty much underlines what "Shrew" is all about -- a wild comedy about the battle of the sexes that director Gary Armagnac decided would work beautifully set in post-World War II America.

"One of the first things that hit me on rereading the play was that all the men and women want to get married," Armagnac says. "It reminded me of when the men came home from World War II."

Kate's vows of obedience to her husband, Petruchio, make a bit more sense in the postwar setting, but the show is much less a social document than a zany romantic comedy, mirroring the movies of the '40s, along with focusing on the battles between Kate and Petruchio raging as all those around them are falling in love and getting married.

The play's masks, which will be featured on the opening weekend, are considerably zanier than the Shakespeare piece, thanks, mainly to Ives, who was commissioned to write the adaptation to replace long speeches with silly fun and make the story, basically about the education of a romantic young man coming to the city, play well for a modern audience.

The Corneille device of including some quotations from Shakespeare has been retained, however, said Lisa Tromovich, founder and artistic director of Livermore Shakes.

"The Shakespeare speeches are usually paraphrased, but since this is for a Shakespeare Festival crowd, I put them in," she said. "In fact, I think this is the reason 'The Liar' has been part of the season for many outdoor Shakespeare festivals."

Tromovich has also moved the time period up to later in the 17th century to take advantage of the more interesting costumes from the Restoration period.

Beyond the comedy, the show uses the notion of masks to discuss the various ways people act in public and private, such as the masks they wear when they conduct business, to function in public or to get a date or maintain a relationship. The idea of masks is so prevalent; sometimes a person doesn't know what he is like beneath all the masks. And Corneille concludes it is necessary to know this and function without masks when you've found the partner you want to spend your life with.

Both shows play in the Concannon Vineyard, 4590 Tesla Road, Livermore. The shows run about 21/2 hours, including intermission. Tickets cost $25 to $46 and can be reserved at 800-838-3006 or www.LivermoreShakes.org.

Preview and Family Night Performance of "The Liar" is on June 20, the opening night performance on June 21, with subsequent "Liar" shows June 22, 30 July 5, 6, 14 and 20. Preview of "The Taming of the Shrew" is on June 27, June 29, July 12, 13, 19 and 21, with a Family Night performance July 7.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 8 p.m. July 28.

FIREHOUSE FIRST FRIDAYS: The first Friday of the month mean special free events throughout the summer at Pleasanton's Firehouse Theatre.

This Friday will include an improv show by Pleasanton's teen group Creatures of Impulse. Also on the program is an installation on The Contemporary Landscape in the Harrington Gallery, a demonstration by landscape and still life painter Sally Haig

July 5, local singer-songwriter Ryan Cassata will perform. Also featured are watercolorist Marge Atkins who will show and share her methods, plus programs to be announced later, as will the entire August program, except for the Aug. 2 fiber and mixed media program by Denise Oyama Miller.

Child care and studio projects will be available for children at all the first Fridays.

Entertainment programs kick things off at 5:15 p.m. in the theater, followed by the other featured programs. The Firehouse is at 4444 Railroad Ave., Pleasanton. For more details, call 925-931-4848 or visit www.firehousearts.org.

Contact Pat Craig at pjcraig495@yahoo.com.

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