Our productions of Shakespeare’s two most famous gender-bending comedies, “As You Like It” and “Twelfth Night,” were our biggest challenges yet – it’s true what they say about Comedy being harder! But our Players rose to the occasion beautifully!
In our “Twelfth Night,” Illyria was the scene of a raucous Carnival. The twins, Viola and Sebastian, found themselves in a city with no rules, where Fools in sequins and servants in feathers played nasty jokes on their associates, with no fear of the consequences, and tap-dancing Amazon police officers tried vainly to keep order.
In “As You Like It,” Rosalind and Orlando escaped the rigidity and nastiness of the cruel city, where they were the victims of arbitrary and unfair rules, for the Forest of Arden, where “Do Unto Others” was the law of the land, and where a cast of eccentric characters were all just trying to find someone to love.
Our pilot summer program offered our Players three weeks of discovering Shakespeare through a variety of tools and techniques that we’ve found enlighten and inspire our young Players. They worked on scenes and monologues, all relating to Polonius’s famous maxim, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” Our Players’ work culminated in a recital performance for family and friends, where we blended the scene and monologue work with a variety of Spolin/Boal improvisational sets. We also enjoyed discovering the world of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan England, and attending productions of “Taming of the Shrew” by Shakespeare Festival LA, and “Twelfth Night” and “Henry IV” by the Independent Shakespeare Co.
We continued with two classes, but this time, we mixed the veterans with the newer Players – the experience of our long-timers (for many Players, this was their fourth performance) blended beautifully with the enthusiasm of our new Players. We knew that “Macbeth” was the next play we wanted to tackle, and as we worked with the script, we discovered that it broke down quite nicely into two parts that perfectly suited the personalities and talents of our two ensembles. “Part One – Conscience” followed Lord and Lady Macbeth as they struggled with their decisions to, in contemporary speak, “make bad choices.” “Part Two – Consequence” studied the fallout from those choices.
The two sections were presented as a double-header – there was a brief break between the two, and audience members who chose to attend both parts enjoyed visiting area restaurants, who offered discounts to theatergoers.
After the odyssey that was The Tempest, we decided that our families could not regularly commit to such a lengthy endeavor, so we streamlined the process. We also opened up a second class for students new to the LADC, and began our residency at The Lost Studio, Cinda Jackson’s beautiful 99-seat theater on La Brea.
Our veterans, dubbed The Queen’s Players, tackled “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” A script was developed (using only Shakespeare’s words, of course) that focused on the storyline of the young lovers, and of Titania, Oberon and Theseus. Our production was set in the 60s, complete with lots of tie-dye, peace signs and protests. After just 12 weeks of rehearsal, we did three performances in our new space.
Our new Players, The King’s Players, began work on “Pericles,” focusing on the journey Pericles takes to find his family. Originally, our plan was to allow them to get their feet wet with a small recital for family, but they jumped in with such enthusiasm that we juggled things around a bit, and they were able to do a full performance for the public.
After the success of the first production, we were inspired to mount a full production of “The Tempest.” We plunged into the process, having no idea what to expect as our young Players took on this challenge. Originally, the plan was to begin rehearsal in the Fall for a Winter production. But we were determined to make the experience more about the process than the product, and Winter passed, then Spring, then Summer, and when Fall rolled around, we were finally ready to show our work to the public. As one mother whose child turned seven during the process commented, “My child has been working on The Tempest for more than one-seventh of his life!”
As the performance approached, we realized that the historic Brookledge Theater was too fragile for the demands we were placing upon it, so we moved our production to The Wilshire United Methodist Church, where we again did two performances for standing-room only crowds.
The Los Angeles Drama Club began in 2004 when two mothers (also professional actors) gathered a handful of young neighborhood children in the garden of a historic Brookside home to learn about the world of Shakespeare.
Our first production was held in the historic Brookledge Theater. Our fledgling Players, in full Renaissance dress, did two performances for standing room-only houses.