Our 2023 in review …
After 18 years of growth and expansion, we have had a rich and notable year of milestones in 2023.
After moving online during COVID, it was glorious to be together again in 2022 to present The Winter’s Tale and Much Ado about Nothing, and we continued to regain our momentum with Shakespeare Youth Festival LA ‘23.
SHAKESPEARE YOUTH FESTIVAL 2023
Using the amphitheater at Our Lady of Bright Mount (a hidden gem in Mid-City), our teen ensemble presented a sweepingly epic production of a condensed edit of all three parts of the rarely performed Henry VI – an almost five hour show each performance!
Running alongside Henry, our younger players gave us a dark and inspired production of Macbeth, made even more evocative by our setting outside of the opulent Catholic Church.
THE END OF AN ERA
Sadly, the end of our 2023 Festival also brought an end of an era as this was the final season for founder Blaire Baron Larsen as Artistic Director. After almost twenty years guiding the creative vision behind SYF, Blaire has taken her passion and talent across the country to Staunton, Virginia to begin a new chapter in her Shakespeare journey. Not having her in rehearsals and meetings leaves a massive hole that will never truly be filled, however, Blaire’s blood will always run through the veins of SYF and we are proud to announce that she will be joining as the first member of our newly forming Board Of Trustees.
Although the “Bl-era” (Blaire + Era) is over, we are just getting started! Our Executive Director Julia Wyson has stepped into the role of Artistic Director to carry forward the vision of the organization. To fill her role as ED, one of our long-time teaching artists, and former manager of the Pasadena Playhouse, J. Bailey Burcham has taken the reins. Looking to the future, Julia and Bailey hope to continue the legacy of the Festival while also expanding our name to larger audiences of the greater Los Angeles community.
SUMMER WITH SHAKESPEARE YOUTH FESTIVAL
This past summer we spent three weeks in Shakespeare Intensive heaven at Kenneth Hahn Park – two of those weeks were spent with our younger tragedians (mostly new to SYF) building the basics, while our final week featured our high school students, who, in just five magical days, directed and performed an extraordinary production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Performed under a massive “wedding” tree at the idyllic Village Green, our “Renaissance Run” (replicating as closely as possible the norms of the original productions in Shakespeare’s day) was a difficult and rewarding process that we will be continuing in future summers.
SHAKESPEARE YOUTH FESTIVAL 2024
Since September we’ve been focused on our 2024 festival to be presented at the historic Hudson Theater Backstage in Hollywood – home to many theatrical world premieres, as well as Comedy Central stand-up specials. We hope you will join us – you can find performance details here!!
January will see us expanding our circle even further, as we return to our community outreach! We are establishing partnerships with local libraries and LAUSD schools to continue our goal of giving access to the magic of Shakespeare to every child in our city.
We are fortunate to have a loyal staff of extraordinary teaching artists – Kila Packett, Esdras Toussaint, Anniwaa Buachie, and Stephanie Ferrell have all been with us for over a decade and although they may step away periodically to pursue other professional endeavors, they maintain roles within the festival and will always have an artistic home with us. We’ve also added two new teaching artists to our rolodex of talent – we welcome Alessandra Ma
The Future is bright for SYF. There is potential for us to travel again in Summer 2024 to spread the joy of theatre and the stories of Shakespeare across the globe. Many of our alumni have expressed interest in our goal to present Alumni Shows, possibly at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, allowing our past players to return to our stage.
Here’s where you come in – It is time to rebuild our infrastructure to support the more than 1,000 young artists we will work with in the coming years – your donation can help us do that! Please help us continue our mission to make the magic of theater and Shakespeare accessible to all!
With much love, and best wishes for a spectacular 2024!
Julia & Bailey
PS. Interested in helping Shakespeare Youth Festival in other ways? Check out our Wish List!!