It’s that time again. Turner Classic Movies’ 15th annual TCM Classic Film Festival is fast approaching, slated for April 18–21 in Hollywood. Among the highlights: actress and filmmaker Jodie Foster will be honored with a hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX® (Grauman’s forever to most of us), and a closing night screening of Spaceballs will be presented by writer-director Mel Brooks, perhaps the festival’s most popular recurring guest over the years. 

The fest opens with a 30th anniversary screening of Pulp Fiction (1994) with John Travolta in attendance. Steven Spielberg will offer the director’s cut of his 1977 classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind and participate in a Q&A, Diane Lane will attend a screening of A Little Romance (1979), and Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins are expected for a 30th anni showing of The Shawshank Redemption.

Keith Carradine, Dana Delaney, Leonard Maltin, Billy Dee Williams, and Jeff Daniels are among others slated to appear. Six 1920s Vitaphone shorts with vaudeville stars (including Burns and Allen) will be projected in 35mm, with sound played back from their original 16-inch discs. Nine restored animated shorts (mostly from the Fleischer Studios) will be shown.

The newly restored Egyptian Theatre is happily among the venues once again, along with the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres. The official hotel and central gathering point will once more be The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, site of the first Oscar ceremony. There are four levels of passes available. Tix and info: filmfestival/

Meanwhile, live theatre is very much alive, and new shows have opened all over town this weekend. At Long Beach Playhouse, you get five Hamlets for the price of one. James Rice and Amanda Karr have adapted Shakespeare’s timeless classic (continuing through May 4), setting it in a 19th century asylum, with five different actors portraying different aspects of the Melancholy Dane’s personality as they take us on a journey through his mind. 

Somehow it all works, though the play can be hard to follow at times. Sarah Green, the “Core” Hamlet who has the monologues, has strong stage presence, as does Roberto Williams, “Hamlet (Vengeance),” who engages in most of the dialogue with Ophelia. Neil Switzer (Claudius), Michael Hovance (Polonius), Lee Samuel Tang (Laertes) and Rose London (Gertrude) offer impressive performances.

Ophelia’s (Tavia Williams) death scene is a poetic ballet-like scene, one of the most imaginative moments in the show. Christina Bayer’s costumes are simply superb, while David Scaglione’s grungy set could easily be used to stage Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Tix and info:

At A Noise Within in Pasadena, a first-rate ensemble is performing  King Hedley II (through April 28), one of the lesser-known plays in August Wilson’s justly celebrated American Century Cycle. The 10-play cycle brilliantly depicts the African American experience over the course of the 20th century, with Wilson himself described as “our American Shakespeare” by the theater’s co-artistic directors. 

Despite the play’s relative obscurity, it proves as potent as any in the award-winning cycle, with a striking visual opening that foreshadows the ending. Hedley is set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, like all but one of the ten plays. The titular character (played by Aaron Jennings) is a proud ex-con who struggles with the economic reality of trying to rebuild his life, while confronting the challenges facing a black man in his situation.

No spoilers, but just when you think the play is going to mimic a key plot element of Hamlet, it throws you a curve ball. Gregg T. Daniel directs with aplomb, guiding standout performances by Ben Cain (as the longtime flame of Hedley’s mother) and Gerald C. Rivers (as the eccentric neighborhood truthsayer). Tix and info:

Photo: Burns and Allen in 1929 Vitaphone short Lambchops screening at TCM Classic Film Festival. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Author: Jordan Young