A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Monday, May 4, 2009

Shakespeare In The Park

Children's Fairyland will echo to the words of the Bard this weekend when the Young Actors Workshop presents Shakespeare's "Love's Labor's Lost."
Director Amanda Ditmore, a senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, says the young thespians chose this play because of its uncanny parallel with their own lives.
"It's about a group of young people who, at the end of the play, find themselves heading off into the world. It's the end of their adolescence, and that's very meaningful to us," she said.
"Many of us have been together since middle school, and now we're seniors going off to college. This play is one last time for us to get together and have some fun and put a fitting close to our friendship and hard work for the last six years."
This is the first production by an outside group in Fairyland's new Aesop's Playhouse, a 200-seat amphitheater that is also the venue for Fairyland's own performance troupe, the Children's Theater.
"And they've already found ways to use it that never occurred to us," said C.J. Hirschfield, Fairyland's executive director, "such as opening the doors at the back of the stage and using the vista beyond as a backdrop. I'm thrilled."
Sooz Worthing, who directs the Young Actors Workshop, returns the compliment.
"It's a very whimsical space. I love the fact that there are all these doors, which give us great opportunities for all kinds of fun stage business, with everyone running around and making entrances and exits like a Keystone Kops movie."
She and Amanda have set the play in Europe during the ominous years leading up to World War II, which gives the actors the chance to wear some great period costumes, makeup and hairstyles.
The Young Actors Workshop, an after-school enrichment program at Park Day School in Oakland, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The actors, ages 11 to 18, come from middle and high schools throughout the Bay Area.
From the start, they have run the show.
"Amanda is not my assistant," said Worthing. "She really is the co-director. She did most of the cutting and staging, and she was really great working with the actors. She's very intuitive and patient, and she knows how to get the best work out of them."
Amanda, who is looking forward to studying at Emerson College in Boston next year, is already a prize winner, having won the Gerald A. Larson award for excellence in directing at this year's Lenaea Festival at Cal State Sacramento.
But, like the characters in the play, she's finding that parting is such sweet sorrow.
"I know it's a cliché, but I feel like I'm saying goodbye to my family. These are some of my closest friends."

If You Go:
What: "Love's Labor's Lost" by William Shakespeare, performed by the Young Actors Workshop. Suitable for children 10 and older.
Where: Aesop's Playhouse at Children's Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Avenue in Oakland
When: May 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. May 10 at 5 p.m.
Tickets: $13 for adults, $9 for students and seniors. Available at the door.
Info: 510-923-0505 x102

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