Shakespeare for all ages

Kids of all ages enjoyed these performers from The Greenshow-Scottish Night during last summer's Utah Shakespeare Festival (Photo: Lynn Trimble)

While Lizabeth and I attended the Utah Shakespeare Festival last summer, we spent most evenings at something called “The Greenshow” — an outdoor performance of song, dance and comedy attended by festival guests and neighboring families whose children enjoy the lively entertainment and festive feel of the event.

Too often it’s assumed that the works of Shakespeare have little appeal to children — but Lizabeth, now 17, caught the Shakespeare bug several years ago thanks to a Childsplay summer camp with a Shakespeare theme. Valley children ages 8 to 12 will have a similar opportunity this summer as Childsplay Summer Academy 2011 presents “Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night” June 20-24 at their “Campus for Imagination and Wonder” in Tempe.

For teens (16 +) and adults, Verve Studios in Phoenix is offering a four-week intensive titled “Shakespeare Boot Camp” designed to “introduce actors to the language of the Bard in a practical, fun and entertaining way” while preparing them for auditions involving Shakespeare material. The class, which runs 9am-noon each Saturday in April, will be taught by Katherine Stewart, artistic director for Desert Rose Theatre.

Students accepted into the Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre, headed by Randy Messersmith (director of the SCC theatre arts department), enjoy five weeks of intense training in classical and contemporary theater — including Shakespeare. Conservatory auditions (by appointment only) take place Sat, April 2 — and classes (held four days a week) begin May 31. Lizabeth enjoyed training with Randy Messersmith, Maren Maclean, Boyd Branch and others during last summer’s conservatory.

She’s now nearing the final stages of making her choice of where to attend college or conservatory next year. She’s waiting to hear from one final school — but has been notified of her acceptance by all the rest. “There are students,” shared one of her teachers, “who would kill to be in her shoes.” (I’m wondering whether they’d be as excited to wear her purposely mismatched socks.)

Cast member from The Greenshow 2010 interacts with a young girl from Cedar City (Photo: Lynn Trimble)

Lizabeth has also taken classes through the Utah Shakespeare Festival — which has youth offerings this summer that include “Playmakers” (students 8-16), “Shakespeare for Junior Actors,” “Acting I” (students 16+), “Acting II” (students 17+) and “Tech Camp” (students 14-18).

Diverse offerings for educators include “Theatre Methods for the Classroom” (Elementary and Secondary options) “Acting for Directors,” “Tech Camp for Directors” and more.

I’ve no doubt that Lizabeth’s time studying, performing and witnessing Shakespeare’s works has fueled her love for both language and the craft of acting — and honed a sense of humor already sharpened by nature and life experience.

Other than a brief stint as one of the three witches in “Macbeth” during middle or high school (it’s all running together at this point), I’ve had little experience studying or performing the works of Shakespeare. But I’m an enthusiastic audience member who rarely misses an opportunity to see a live performance of Shakespeare’s plays.

This Thurday evening will likely find me at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for the “Aquila Theatre” production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (they’ll present “Six Characters in Search of an Author” the following evening). Originally from London but now based on NYC, “Aquila Theatre” is described as “a classically trained modernly hip troupe.” Knowing that Lizabeth enjoyed a “Shakespeare and hip hop” class during the recent Arizona State Thespian Festival in Phoenix has me wondering if this is now all the rage.

I’ve also marked my calendar for a live broadcast of Verdi’s “Macbeth,” being shown in three Valley Harkins Theatres at 11:30am on June 13. I’m alerting you to this early because there are plenty of opera buffs in the Valley and these performances often sell out much more quickly than you might expect. Participating theaters are Arrowhead Fountains 18, Chandler Fashion 20 and Scottsdale 101 14. Shakespeare novices can get a good initial feel for Shakespeare’s wit and wisdom by seeing performances of “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Happily, we have our own Southwest Shakespeare Company right here in the Valley. They’re performing Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” through March 26, and open their final production of the current season — “Antony and Cleopatra” — on April 14. Those of you who get your tax returns out the door by then can attend unburdened by the cares plaguing more last-minute types. I say we all make that a goal — and get together in Mesa the evening of April 14 for a serious happy dance.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “Shakespeare for Kids” from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

Coming up: Dance detours, Art books for kids, Valley theater companies hold spring fundraisers

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