Summer of Shakespeare

Yes, kids. We used to spin vinyl.

An American social phenomenon dubbed the “Summer of Love” actually took more than a single summer to run its course. Its onset is often marked by the June 1 release of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album in 1967. Its conclusion the Woodstock Music & Art Fair during the summer of 1969. 

It occurred to me recently that I owe the very existence of this blog to the movement that first brought us hippies, free love and the Age of Aquarius. I can’t claim any particularly profound insights on that one. I just happened upon a History Channel documentary last week regarding the legacy of the ’60s and ’70s in American culture. 

To hear their experts tell it, it was the focus on the individual, the emphasis on creative expression, that led a couple of guys named Steve to create the Apple that would take the giant machine used in the service of the man and translate it into a personal computer for the everyman. 

Studying Shakespeare can be groovy!

I got to thinking about the “Summer of Love” as I read through a press release that recently passed across the screen of my own little piece of personal power. It was from the Southwest Shakespeare Company, whose live theater performances my daughter Lizabeth and I have enjoyed together for many years. 

Lest you think I’m alone in my propensity for mingling seemingly unrelated words and ideas, get to know the three master melders known as the “Reduced Shakespeare Company–whose “comedy for the quick of mind and short of time” was recently featured on National Public Radio.

Hey kids--your "old man" has still got it!

The trio’s many talents include asking audience members for two movie titles–which they then combine into a single concept. We gave this one a try today while lunching with James’ parents. Lizabeth threw out the names of two movies: “Love Story” and “Saw 4.” (One love story, four saws–might explain a bit about our culture, yes?)

I was pleased to quickly proffer the tagline “Woman opts for surgery over chemo” but my husband James, who thought about it a bit longer, suggested “Love hurts.” To think he’s been sitting at a desk all these years when he could be taking his act on the road. Who knew?

For those of you who’ve been “hangin’ loose” when it comes to summer planning, a “groovy” new option may have just fallen into your lap. It’s a five-week evening acting intensive presented by Southwest Shakespeare Company in association with Mesa Community College.

What if The Beatles met the Bard?

This is welcome news for folks 17 and up who can’t make the trek to Utah for summer Shakespeare training—or who simply prefer to enjoy exceptional training close to home. There is something to be said for the Valley “vibe.”

I rarely hear the name “Shakespeare” without harkening back to my time in the little town of Stratford-upon-Avon in the United Kingdom, where the home in which Shakespeare was born and lived is preserved and open for public tours.

I thought it might be fun to do a bit of checking to see what summertime visitors in Stratford-upon-Avon can expect this season in terms of temperature and rain showers. 

The Southwest Shakespeare Company summer intensive runs for five weeks, from about 5pm-10pm weekdays from July 6 to August 7—with some Saturday rehearsals. 

Who doesn't love a little comedy and tragedy?

So I decided to research Stratford-upon-Avon weather forecasts for July 7. No one is foolish enough to forecast that far in advance, of course, so I had to settle for their July 7 “historical averages”–22° by day and 11° by night. That’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit.

Checking Mesa’s forecast for the same day seemed a good idea, but I only got as far as this Monday, when the Valley will reach a lovely 108°. Beyond that, I don’t want to know. It makes the UK equivalent of 71.6° and 51.80° seem downright “cool.”

Thankfully, this summer’s Southwest Shakespeare Company acting intensive takes place indoors rather than outdoors ala the original Globe Theatre, an open-air amphitheater where Shakespeare works were performed during the early 1600s.

Who knew Arizona could be so cool?

It’s being held at Southwest Shakespeare Company at 55 E. Main St. in Mesa, with options to take the course for college credit (the 6 unit course runs $800) or as a non-credit course (which runs just $500). The evening time slot is ideal for teens (17+) or young adults whose days are filled with work, volunteering or other summer courses that meet during the day.

The intensive is based on a conservatory model that’s both comprehensive and rigorous. Faculty will be drawn from renowned Valley theater professionals with expertise in Shakespeare pedagogy and performance, including Southwest Shakespeare artistic director Jared Sakren and director of education Dawn Rochelle Tucker—as well as David Barker, Maren Maclean and Micha Espinosa.

Looks like somebody got lost on the way to Mesa...

Participants will study Shakespeare texts and original practices, acting, masks, movement, voice/speech, combat, rehearsal, performance and more. Sakren describes the intensive as “a total acting experience unlike anything you have experienced before.”

Alas, I won’t be participating. It’s sometimes said that those who can’t do, teach—although I don’t believe this for a minute. In my case, the better quip might be the following: Those who can’t do, give birth. I’m proud to have a daughter who practices the craft of acting, leaving me to adventures of the paper and pen.


The 2010-2011 Southwest Shakespeare Company season includes "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Note: There are plenty of summer theater camps and classes for the under-17 set which haven’t yet started—including those offered by Musical Theatre of Anthem, Fountain Hills Community Theater, Mesa Arts Center, Arizona Broadway Theatre, Theater Works, Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Phoenix Center for the Arts, Phoenix Theatre, Valley Youth Theatre, Desert Stages Theatre, Phoenix Film Institute, and Childsplay. For a comprehensive directory of Valley summer camps for children and teens, check out “Summer Solutions” from Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Coming up: More on the “craft of acting” from Justin Chon, who plays “Eric” in the “Twilight” films. Eric appears to be every parent’s dream—the nice young man who was among the first to welcome Bella to Forks High. Stay tuned to learn more about how Chon got the gig, and his many other adventures outside of the “Twilight” saga. He’s seriously smart, down to earth and funny—and has a wealth of insights to share with children and teens who dream of a life on the stage or screen.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” photo courtesy of Southwest Shakespeare Company


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