The current Theatre in the Park presentation of The Man from Stratford, a series of monologues, soliloquies, and scenes from Shakespeare arranged and directed by Ira David Wood II and performed by participants in TIP’s summer youth-theater program, provides a superb showcase for what might be called TIP: The Next Generation.
Instructors David Wood, David Henderson, Tony and Adrienne Pender, and Stephen J. Larson, and Shawn Stewart-Larson have prepared their students well. Wood elicits passionate full-blooded portrayals from his teenaged performers who prove equally adept at the drama that dominates Act I and the comedy that takes center stage for most of Act II.
Scenic and lighting designer Steve Larson cleverly adapts his set that vividly recreates English King Henry II’s castle in Chinon, France stone by stone, in The Lion in Winter to represent a variety of Shakespearean locales, including the balcony from Romeo and Juliet and the cold, dark, dangerous corridors that Hamlet stalks in Elsinore, Denmark. Costume designer Shawn Stewart-Larson provides simple but versatile outfits for this baker’s dozen of youthful performers, adding an eye-pleasing assortment of hats, capes, and swords as needed.
Cedric Stapleton, a rising freshman at St. Michael School, and Caitlin Radford, a rising senior at Millbrook High, perform the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with brio. Kyle Perren, a rising sophomore at J. F. Webb High, and Jayd Harrison, a rising junior at Fuquay-Varina High, inject similar gusto into their gritty portrayals of the swashbuckling Petruchio and the shrewish Kate from The Taming of the Shrew. Perren also fervently delivers the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V.
Two rising sophomores — Dalton Hood of Trinity Academy and Leah Marie Lackey of Southern Alamance High — play the vengeful Shylock and his mercy-minded daughter Portia with great feeling. Jess Lawrence, a rising freshman at Leesville High, gives pizzazz to Marc Antony’s famous “Friends, Romans, countryman speech” from Julius Caesar; and also ably impersonates the murderous title character of Macbeth and Tybalt from Romeo And Juliet.
Sam Whisnant, a rising senior at Athens High, and Kayla Martin, a rising eighth grader at Our Lady of Lourdes, reenact Hamlet’s stunning rejection of Ophelia — “Get thee to a nunnery,” he commands her — with gusto. Alex Cristiano, a rising junior at Athens Drive, and Christine Zagrobelny, a rising junior at Cardinal Gibbons, give crowd-pleasing performances as they recreate Richard III’s strange, unnatural courtship Lady Anne at the very casket of her husband, whom Richard murdered.
Emily Gardenhire, a rising eighth grader at Martin Middle School, smoothly delivered the Prologue to The Man from Stratford, as well as the melancholy Jaque’s speech (“All the world’s a stage...”) from As You Like It; and Rita Glynn, a rising freshman at Camelot Academy, plays a pert cross-dressing Pyramus opposite Sam Whisnant’s gawky cross-dressing Thisbe in the play-within-a-play from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and then she deftly delivers Prospero’s famous valedictory speech from The Tempest to end this entertaining evening on a high note.
Theatre in the Park presents The Man from Stratford Thursday-Saturday, June 30-July 2, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 3, at 3 p.m. on the mainstage at The Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. $18 ($12 seniors 55+ and students). Group rates are also available. 919/831-6936. Note: There will be an audio-described performance on June 30th. Theatre in the Park: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/2004-05_productions/man_from_stratford/stratford.htm [inactive 9/05].
From June 23 to July 3, Theatre in the Park will present The Man from Stratford, a series of well-known monologues and scenes penned by English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and performed by teenaged participants in TIP’s five-week summer program of study and rehearsal work in Shakespeare interpretation and stage combat. The show includes excerpts from Hamlet, Henry V, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and The Taming of the Shrew.
The show’s cast includes: Alex Cristiano, a rising junior at Athens Drive; Emily Gardenhire, a rising eighth grade at Martin Middle; Rita Glynn, a rising freshman at Camelot Academy; Jayd Harrison, a rising junior at Fuquay Varina High; Dalton Hood, a rising sophomore at Trinity Academy; Leah Marie Lackey, a rising sophomore at Southern Alamance High; Jess Lawrence, a rising freshman at Leesville High; Kayla Martin, a rising eighth grade at Our Lady of Lourdes; Kyle Perren, a rising sophomore at J. F. Webb High; Caitlin Radford, a rising senior at Millbrook High; Cedric Stapleton, a rising freshman at St. Michael School; Sam Whisnant, a rising senior at Athens High; and Christine Zagrobelny, a rising junior at Cardinal Gibbons).
“Theatre in the Park has been committed to producing Shakespearean productions for over three decades,” explains TIP founder and executive and artistic director David Wood. “The Man from Stratford has given us an exciting opportunity to once again expose young and talented performers to the joys and challenges of tackling works by the Bard.
“Most often,” he explains, “young and inexperienced performers are relegated to roles such as ‘the second guard from the left.’ Not this time. When asked what roles they’d like to tackle, the replies were predictable: Romeo, Hamlet, Juliet, Portia, Richard III. Our reply was ‘Okay, the stage is yours.’”
Wood claims, “Shakespeare’s plays were written to be acted, not simply read in class. You learn to perform musicals by getting up on the stage and belting out a song. You learn to truly appreciate the Bard by getting a shot at Hamlet. Obviously, you get more local opportunities to belt out a song than you get to deliver Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy.”
In addition to Wood, instructors for TIP’s summer program include David Henderson, Tony and Adrienne Pender, and Steve and Shawn Larson.
“David Henderson … brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the entire process of teaching, rehearsing and performing Shakespeare,” Wood says, “He’s absolutely passionate about theater, particularly Shakespeare. He has that unique ability to talk with these young people, not at them.”
Wood adds, “Tony Pender has added another exciting layer to the project by creating several exciting sword-fighting scenes which will be included in the production. Knowing something about stage combat is invaluable to any actor — but particularly to Shakespearean actors. One session with Tony and you immediately grasp the fact that there’s much more involved to staging a fight sequence than you might think. There are many opportunities for young performers to take dance classes in the area — but courses in stage combat are rare.”
He adds, “Adrienne Pender is a very talented playwright. She’s been simply fantastic in helping to select the scenes these teenagers will be performing. She’s also helped to write the narration that will connect the scenes and monologues — outlining Shakespeare’s life in an informative but entertaining way.
“Steve Larson has used The Lion in Winter set as the basis for his design work for The Man from Stratford,” says David Wood. “His inventive genius has transformed Chinon into an Italian street scene ... complete with balcony for Juliet with lovely ivy vines.
Wood says, “Shawn Larson [weaves] her usual costuming magic in order to create a basic look for the males and females in the cast — to which various costume pieces are added to fulfill the requirements of certain scenes. The cast will have a wonderful uniform look that isn’t really too modern ... poet shirts for the males and lovely white shifts for the females — which enables the cast to transform themselves into the various characters by adding the additional costume pieces.
“In a sense,” Wood adds, “[The Man from Stratford has] evolved into something of a summer-camp atmosphere — the same sort of camaraderie and fun — which has helped to diminish the feeling of intimidation young performers usually experience when first attempting a Shakespearean role or play. And yet — when it’s time to work — these young people have the incredible courage to jump into the deep end of the pool in order to learn how to swim.”
Theatre in the Park presents The Man from Stratford Thursday-Saturday, June 23-25 and June 30-July 2, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 26 and July 3, at 3 p.m. on the mainstage at The Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. $18 ($12 seniors 55+ and students). Group rates are also available. 919/831-6936. Note 1: June 23rd is 96 Rock Night, with specially priced $9.60 tickets available for all students with ID. Note 2: There will be an opening-night reception party, catered by The Angus Barn, after the June 24th performance. Note 3: On June 26th, there will be a $10 Shakespeare’s Wine & Cheese Social from 1 to 2:15 p.m. prior to the 3 p.m. Sunday matinee. Note 4: There will be an audio-described performance on June 30th. Theatre in the Park: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/2004-05_productions/man_from_stratford/stratford.htm [inactive 9/05].