History – Shakespeare Youth Festival

Summer 2016

Summer 2016

This was our most extensive summer season, and we served almost double the number of kids as we had previously. Due to construction at the Lyric, all sessions were held at Fais Do Do, enabling us to achieve something we’d wanted for a long time – the union of our two troupes.

Our second Young Playwrights Festival was a huge success. A company of actors, including LA professionals and several of our teens, performed twelve world premieres.

Our first of three Shakespeare Intensives explored and expanded on the phrase, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

The second Shakespeare Intensive focused on Conflict – discovering famous adversaries like Mistress Quickly and Falstaff, Mercutio and Tybalt, Ajax and Thersites, and more.

Our older students went “Beyond Shakespeare,” exploring playwrights like Moliere, Kyd, Suzan-Lori Parks, Federico García Lorca and Arthur Miller.

In Knighthood and Chivalry, our Knights learned Renaissance dances, stage combat, and created Orders committed to making positive change in the world.

We closed with the last Intensive – Shakespeare and the Greeks – where we explored mythology used in Shakespeare’s plays, and performed not only Shakespeare scenes, but an original piece based on the words of the Greek philosopher Epicurus.

 

SYFLA – Spring 2016

SYFLA – Spring 2016

We opened with The Winter’s Tale, performed by our older students. The production traveled from a chilly Sicily, with characters dressed in white and gold, to a riotously colorful Bohemia.

At Fais Do Do, the season opened with Comedy of Errors. Two identical twins and their two servants (also identical twins) are separated in a ship-wreck. When, years later, they all show up in the same town, mistaken identities abound.

Back at the Lyric, we performed The Tempest (our third production!) In this production, our “Prospera” was female, adding interesting nuances to her relationship with Miranda, and with the Neapolitans who usurped her throne. We also gave Sycorax, Caliban’s mother, a voice, and she haunted the island with her laments and plotting.

We closed with Pericles at Fais Do Do. Performed primarily in the round, with all the costume changes taking place in full view of the audience, the Players cplayed multiple roles, and created storms at sea, a joust, and multiple shipwrecks

 

SYFLA – Fall 2015

SYFLA – Fall 2015

Fall 2015 saw the premiere of our second original script – and the second entry in Blaire Baron Larsen’s Spoken trilogy. Unspoken: Shakespeare’s Personae in Peril placed several of Shakespeare’s smaller, often cut characters in a mythical Green Room, pestering their harried Stage Manager to learn whether they would be going on in any of the hundreds of Shakespeare productions happening across the world. Frequently interrupted by an angry Lady Macbeth, they discover that there are plans afoot to cut them permanently, as the works of Shakespeare are deemed too long and too complex for modern audiences. Unspoken speaks out against this attitude, and reiterates the importance and the magic of Shakespeare and live theater.

At Fais Do Do, our Shakespeare in the City Players presented Midsummer Night’s Dream. As the Runaways left the repressive Court, they found themselves in a 1960s “flower child” paradise, where tie-dye clad fairies made mischief, and the Rude Mechanicals rehearsed.

SUMMER 2015

SUMMER 2015

This year, we offered seven weeks of programming. At Fais Do Do, we offered three weeks of our Shakespeare Intensive – each week featured a different theme, including “Family,” focusing on plays like King Lear, Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet, and “Shakespeare goes to Greece,” featuring Comedy of Errors, Troilus and Cressida, and Pericles.

At the Lyric Theatre, we offered two weeks of Shakespeare Intensive, one week of Queen Elinor’s School of Knighthood and Chivalry, and were thrilled to launch the inaugural Young Playwrights’ 10-Minute Play Fest.

Our playwrights were each given the challenge of writing a Ten-Minute play in one week. They were supported by writing mentor, Blaire Larsen, and directing mentor, Julia Wyson, as well as an ensemble of actors – both LADC troupe members, and professional actors – who performed their plays for a public audience at the end of the week. The topics ranged from politics to family dynamics to birth and death – we were astonished and delighted with what they came up with!

Our young knights learned combat from fight masters Kila Packett and Esdras Toussaint, explored the Art of Storytelling, played Renaissance games like “Nine Men’s Morris,” and  performed a Renaissance Reel for the demonstration at the end of the week. A highlight of the week was our Griffith Park trail ride, where our guide regaled our young Knights with details about the Equestrian Arts in Shakespeare’s time!

We ended the Summer Season by combining our two troupes and heading to Santa Monica to perform and conduct workshops for the Tongva Park Family Saturday series. The Players performed scenes from their recitals, and we taught theater games, Shakespeare insults, Stage Combat and Iambic Pentameter to anyone who happened to be wandering through Tongva Park on this sunny summer Saturday!

 

SYFLA – Spring 2015

SYFLA – Spring 2015

Our Spring season opened with Much Ado about Nothing, performed by our youngest Players. Set in the early days of California (perfect for the Mission Project that is a part of the school curriculum for most California 4th graders), the Players danced to the music of Early California, and did an exceptional job of telling the story. We broke audience records for their final performance – we had kids sitting on their parents’ laps, and on yoga mats in the front row, as the actors made sure not to dance on their audience’s toes!

Next was Troilus and Cressida, performed by our elder statesmen. This challenging and rarely-done play was set against an apocalyptic playground in an indeterminate time, and the set was constructed almost entirely from discarded artifacts (also known as “trash” – Players scavenged for plastic water bottles for weeks to construct Achilles’ tent). The sounds of the digeridoo, rap played on bagpipes, and “I, Who Have Nothing” sung by Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey … and Pandarus … made up the musical landscape of this haunting and affecting production.

The season closed with Antony & Cleopatra, a sprawling and epic production performed by our Shakespeare in the City troupe, ages 7 through 15. The roles of Antony and of Cleopatra were each divided between two actors – the four actors wove in and out throughout the piece, illustrating the change our personalities and resolves can undergo when we are in different company. The production featured both veteran LADC performers (one of the actors playing Cleopatra, at age 13, had already appeared in 8 LADC productions), and young actors appearing on stage for the first time.

SYFLA – Fall 2014

SYFLA – Fall 2014

This Fall marked our first original production – “Outspoken” was inspired by Blaire’s trip to London, and our Players’ fascination with the stories she brought back about The Clink, London’s notorious prison. We imagined what might happen if several of Shakespeare’s most idealistic and rebellious characters were thrown in The Clink for speaking truth to power.

Our oldest Players transplanted “Twelfth Night” to Crystal Cove, a remote beach community circa 1962. Surfer music, Hawaiian shirts and lots of palm fronds added to the fun.

Our Shakespeare in the City Players explored the most iconoclastic people of Shakespeare’s Canon – characters who break the mold, speak up to the Power, smash their own stereotype, explode old paradigms, and climb an uphill trail of courage, creativity and… controversy.

 

SUMMER 2014

SUMMER 2014

This year, we offered six weeks of programming. At Fais Do Do, we offered three weeks of our Shakespeare Intensive – Players explored plays like Twelfth Night, Taming of the Shrew, Cymbeline, King Lear, Hamlet, Much Ado about Nothing, and Midsummer Night’s Dream. We were honored to have poet Hardy Keith Edwards as guest instructor – he worked with the students to explore not only Shakespeare’s poetry, but the works of Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth and Claude McKay.

At the Lyric Theatre, we offered two weeks of Shakespeare Intensive, and one week of Queen Elinor’s School of Knighthood and Chivalry. Our young knights learned combat from fight masters Kila Packet and Esdras Touissant, horseback-riding from equestrian experts Lorena Orlosky and David James, and archery from Gary Landers at the Rancho Park Archery Range. We also explored the art of storytelling – our Knights interviewed family members, and shared stories of family history. We divided into small groups, and each group created a “family” crest, motto and mission.

A highlight of the summer was our amazing staff of student teacher-directors. Several of our students who are now in or approaching high school mentored the younger Players, and took on coaching, teaching and directing tasks. We are so proud of their excellent work!

SYFLA – Spring 2014

SYFLA – Spring 2014

The 2014 SYFLA season opened with our SITC Players’ production of The Tempest. The cast inhabited every corner of Fais Do Do for this production, keeping the audience on their toes. Several of our SITC troupe members now have multiple productions under their belts – they tackled the major roles, and were joined by a dozen new members of our World of Shakespeare introductory class, playing Ariel’s unruly fairies and sprites.

Our LADC veterans wrestled a big Dragon this season. Without a doubt, Richard III makes Macbeth look like a saint. We divided the role of Richard into two parts – the external, charismatic climber and the internal, tormented ruler. As the play progressed, the second Richard took over, culminating in the famous monologue where, in our production, Richard literally argued with himself over his identity and whether he deserved to continue.

We also presented a 1930’s Two Gentlemen of Verona. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the show opened in a nightclub while a torch singer crooned “What’s cute about a little cutie; it’s her beauty, not brains,” and the entire cast tap danced to “Keep Young and Beautiful.” Establishing those societal expectations gave our young post-feminists (and our audience) insight into why Julia & Proteus might have behaved as they did.

Our youngest Players performed a rollicking Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Runaways navigated the twists and turns of their journey with a skill far beyond their years, and Oberon and Titania introduced their argument with a lyrical dance. The Mechanicals were double-cast as a pack of cranky, misbehaving Fairies, and the audience was delighted by the sense of fun and play they brought to the story.

FALL 2013 – Taming of the “Cur” | Speaking Truth to Power

FALL 2013 – Taming of the “Cur” | Speaking Truth to Power

shrew-flyerFall 2013 saw the launch of our informal “Subversive Shakespeare” series. Purists, head for the hills. We subverted the established opinions and “schools of thought” on the already controversial “Taming of the Shrew,” turning conventional concepts on their 16th century heads. What happens when Petruchia, a single-minded young woman, determined to marry well, meets Jake, otherwise known as the Shrew … er, that is, the Cur? His younger brother Bianco has all the girls in a tizzy, but thanks to the boys’ stubborn mother, they can’t do anything about it until Jake is married off. We were delighted with the results – and that final monologue that has puzzled and infuriated generations of actresses? It’s a whole different story when a young man speaks it!

photo08-smWe were also thrilled and honored to be named “Community Champions” by PBS SoCal. They sent a documentary crew to Fais Do Do to film our SITC Players as they performed “Shakespeare’s Characters: Speaking Truth to Power.” The troupe embodied characters from the Canon who display elements of courage in the face of corruption, poise under pressure, and who spoke their truth to the powers that be.

The result was two mini-documentaries – one that aired throughout December 2013, and a segment on LaART, PBS SoCal’s original show celebrating the Arts in Los Angeles.

 

Summer 2013

Summer 2013

We tripled our programming this Summer, adding two weeks of Shakespeare in the City, and two weeks of our new “Queen Elinor’s School of Knighthood and Chivalry” to our usual Shakespeare Intensive. Our Knights explored Archery, Swordplay and the Equestrian Arts, went on a “Wilderness Quest,” and designed custom Coats of Arms, reflecting their family heritage, while our Shakespeare Intensive and Shakespeare in the City students amazed audiences with recitals at the end of each week. We were thrilled to have a full staff of Artistic Associates assisting us in teaching and directing, including five high schoolers who have grown up with LADC.