Once again, a group of our students elected to spend all year exploring Romeo & Juliet, developing a close-knit ensemble that reveled in their explorations of the relevant themes, and performed some pretty passionate swordplay, under the direction of Fight Choreographer Kila Packett. It was presented it in repertory with a circus-themed As You Like It, where Rosalind and Celia run away to the Circus of Arden, and meet clowns, acrobats, animal tamers, and more! And a new generation of LADC Players made their debuts with Pericles – we’re very excited for the future!
Meanwhile, in West Adams, our Shakespeare in the City troupe presented their first full-length production – in a lively and colorful, music-filled rendition of Timon of Athens – once again, letting audiences see how relevant this rarely-produced play is to contemporary audiences.
It was an Election Year. What will politicians do and say to be in power? Take Macbeth, for example. Our Players pared Macbeth down to reveal these Bad to the Bone characters just as they are – raw, ambitious, political, shadowy, dark.
Three of our Players (two of them female) explored the role of Macbeth, as he unravels, literally passing on the mantle in a ceremonial transition. And our three Lady Macbeths also played the three Weird Sisters, raising all sorts of interesting questions about who was actually driving the action, and what was real and what were figments of the Macbeths’ troubled consciences.
This Fall, we also began a new class – Play-Acting for Social Justice. Our Players worked together for 12 weeks to create their own original theatre pieces – works based on a pedagogy of social justice themes expressed with compassion and solution. They explored the ISMS (ageism, classicism, racism, lookism, ableism, etc.) and the PHOBIAS (homophobia, xenophobia, etc.) that create conflict and cause damage – from a two-person altercation … to a global catastrophe.
The resulting show – “O Justice, Where Art Thou? Young Voices of Courage” – wove our Players’ pieces together with the words of Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, and other visionaries.
Our 2012 Summer theme was “All in the Family” – Shakespeare’s plays are filled with rich family relationships that our Players explored, through improvisation, movement, voice and text work. We were thrilled to welcome Kila Packett to our faculty – Kila taught Stage Combat, and the hand-to-hand combat scenes that our Players developed over the weeks were a big hit at the Recital!
Our 2012 season presented three unique challenges that pushed our Players to new heights of artistry and accomplishment. Complex stories, challenging text, and musical explorations were all part of the odyssey taken by 42 Players.
For our “Rare Gem” series, we tackled King John, set in 1850s Appalachia. Not only did the setting work beautifully, but the Players stunned even their directors by navigating the shifting alliances and machinations of the characters with ease, grace and so much life.
Love’s Labors Lost took us the 1950s Las Vegas – again, the transplant took perfectly, and casino bosses, showgirls and even Elvis impersonators added to the fun!
A play as iconic as Hamlet deserves special attention, and 12 of our Players gave a whole school year to tackling its complexity. The role of Hamlet was divided into four parts – our four Hamlets worked together to reflect the full spectrum of one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters. Several audience members commented that our Steampunk-themed production gave them new insight into the play.
“Shakespeare in Nature” was the theme for 2011 – in addition to our work in the theater, we took to the Great Outdoors, and created movement pieces, based on “storm” scenes from Pericles and The Tempest. We also explored a number of characters from those two plays, through improvisation, voice and movement work, and finally applying our work to Shakespeare’s text.
Our final recitals were held outdoors at the Pan Pacific Park Ampitheater – family and friends enjoyed the performances on two beautiful Saturdays.
We’ve always refused to be limited by the expectations of what Shakespeare plays are “appropriate” for young performers, and this season, we really pushed the envelope. “Merchant of Venice” remained true to its tradition, and stirred up a little controversy – we received emails questioning why we would expose young people to the themes of this complex play – but our Players faced those themes with thoughtfulness and insight.
In what has come to be known as our “Rare Gem” series, we took on “Cymbeline” – our older students loved exploring the villains and heroes of this epic romance, and many audience members commented on how exciting it was to discover an unfamiliar play.
“Comedy of Errors” continued the themes of losing and finding family and was beautifully led by our exceptionally strong group of 4th graders, some with as many as five Shakespearean productions under their belts!
Our 2010 Summer Players explored the worlds of witches, wizards, fairies and sprites in Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest and Macbeth. Our first week culminated in a recital at the Lost Studio, while our second week presented their discoveries at the Brookledge Theater, our original location. Brookledge has a rich history in the world of magic (known as “the most famous address in magic”) and it was a thrill for our Players to prepare for their performance in a Green Room that has hosted the likes of Harry Blackstone, Dante the Magician, Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Joseph Cotten and Marlene Dietrich.
Due to the growing number of “Drama Club addicts,” we expanded, once again, to offer a third class. Our two 1st to 4th grade classes tackled the comedy and word play of “Much Ado About Nothing” and the rarely performed “Timon of Athens.” Our new class, made up of 4th through 8th graders performed “The Winter’s Tale” (our first evening performances, and first intermission!!)
The challenges of “The Winter’s Tale” took advantage of our older Players’ experience and maturity – they tackled the challenging emotions and epic scope with grace, and audience members were truly moved. Our “Much Ado” cast, led by a few of our Drama Club veterans, were applauded for the clarity with which they told the story. And our “Timon” cast enhanced what is often said to be an “unfinished” play with their insights into money and friendship, and enchanted the audience with their bacchanalian revels.
The Players in our second summer program worked intensively for two weeks on material that reflected our theme “Shakespeare Goes to Greece.” We explored characters in the plays that were inspired by or taken from Greek and Roman history and mythology, including The Tempest, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Troilus and Cressida, Comedy of Errors and Timon of Athens. We discussed the importance of myth and storytelling in our lives, and developed our own recounting of the myth of Pandora. We learned about various types of theaters, and created our own theaters and sets. The Players’ work culminated in a recital performance for family and friends, held on the grounds of historic Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and followed by a trip to Papa Christos Restaurant, where we celebrated over gyros and baba ghanouj. Several of our Players had the opportunity to attend productions of “As You Live It” by Aquila Theater/Shakespeare Festival LA, and “The Tempest” by the Independent Shakespeare Co, where we were treated to a backstage tour by “Sebastian” and “Caliban.”
For our first foray into the rich world of Shakespeare’s History plays, the group enthusiastically leapt into discussions about rebelling when you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly, having a parent who doesn’t understand you, hanging out with friends that your parents don’t like, and what happens (or doesn’t happen) to people who lie to get what they want … and suddenly life in 15th Century England doesn’t seem so far away.
As always, the process was fraught with chaos, as the Players wrestled with the challenging words and concepts. The plays demanded of the Players a new maturity toward their creative work, and through their work, they continued to develop as thinking, questioning artists, passionate about the characters, the stories and the themes.