After seventeen years with Shakespeare Youth Festival, Blaire Baron is leaving Los Angeles as well as her position as Artistic Director of the youth arts non-profit that she founded. She will continue to serve on the Board of Directors and as a global ambassador from her new location in Staunton, Virginia (home of American Shakespeare Center). J. Bailey Burcham, who has been involved/engaged with the organization since 2015, will step into the Executive Director spot, replacing Julia Walker Wyson who, as the new Artistic Director, will focus on the artistic direction of the company.
Baron founded SYF (formerly, Los Angeles Drama Club) in 2005, with a handful of children in her backyard — home of the historic Brookledge Theatre, precursor to LA’s Magic Castle. Through her artistic vision, the group exploded into a thriving non-profit that has reached children not only all over LA, but in Kenya, Botswana, and Mexico. “We are delighted that Blaire will continue her association with Shakespeare Youth Festival,” Wyson commented. “Among other things, as a Board member, she will be integrally involved in developing our international program, which she initiated with a trip to Botswana in 2018.”
As Executive Director, J. Bailey Burcham will focus on expanding the programming and reach of SYF to make the highest quality of theater and community even more accessible to the youth of Los Angeles and beyond. Burcham, who first became associated with SYF in 2015 as a cast member of a production of Baron’s original script “Outspoken: Shakespeare in Shackles,” is also a local Director, Producer and Award-Winning Writer. He has directed and produced everything from Regional Musical Theater to Experimental Fringe offerings. Previously, in his role as the Manager of the Pasadena Playhouse, Burcham was an integral part of their Tony Award Winning season. “Shakespeare Youth Festival has changed the lives of so many people, including myself,” said Burcham. “I couldn’t be more proud to take on this position to bring more of what we do to the world.” Wyson added, “Bailey is a creative, dynamic, and multi-talented artist, and we are excited to see where he takes our organization. His deep connections to the Los Angeles theater community will benefit our young artists, and he is already using those connections to bring new and diverse talent to our teaching staff.”
Shakespeare Youth Festival’s first project under Burcham’s leadership was the annual Summer Shakespeare Institute. Youth, ages 7 – 14, from all over Los Angeles gathered in Kenneth Hahn Park to explore Shakespeare and theater. Immediately following that, the SYF Teen Ensemble presented the 2nd Annual “Ren Week,” inspired by a tradition at Staunton Virginia’s American Shakespeare Center, where they met on Monday, rehearsed all week, and presented a full-length production (this year’s was “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) on Friday and Saturday.
In the Fall, the troupe will begin rehearsals for “Richard II” (first time for the company), “Julius Caesar,” and “The Tempest.” The productions will be presented at the 18th annual Shakespeare Youth Festival LA.