Stages Repertory Theatre is partnering with the Shakespeare Globe Centre of the Southwest to present a free 45-minute performance of Romeo & Juliet for Houston-area high school campuses and other facilities. Director Rutherford Cravens brings together four students - Christine Arnold, Nicole Gamache, Miguel Garcia, Paige Warton - from the University of Houston School of Theatre and professional actor Eva Laporte for the five-person adaptation.
Educators, parents, teachers and administrators are invited to a free Educator Preview on Saturday February 23rd at Stages Repertory Theatre at 11:00am. The short performance will be followed by a question-answer session with the director and cast, and the event includes two free CPE hours for educators with registration.
Shakespeare Outreach was born out of a conviction that first encountering Shakespeare on the page makes about as much sense as first encountering Mozart through a piece of sheet music. Since the Shakespeare performances are offered free of charge, they are particularly important to the more financially stressed schools and libraries of Harris County's inner-city and rural areas. Thus, for many students Outreach serves not only as an introduction to Shakespeare but also to live professional theater.
"The productions are intended, in part, to eradicate what we call ShakesFear -- the belief that Shakespeare is boring or irrelevant. However, in breaking down that barrier, we also address another prejudice -- that theater is an effete bloodless form of entertainment reserved for the wealthy and restricted to the downtown temples of art," director Rutherford Cravens comments. Outreach performances can be, and have been, presented in every imaginable environment to audiences ranging from elderly in long-term housing to teenagers detained in county juvenile facilities.
The ethnically diverse professional cast is young enough to offer artist role models to audiences and to allow those audiences to relate easily to the characters. While respecting the text, Outreach shows do away with the trappings of classical theater to present a stripped down, contemporary Shakespeare that young audiences respond to enthusiastically.
While there is plenty of theater that reflects on the lives of adults, and plenty of theater for children, there is very little for adolescents. And very little of that is truthful enough to engage a teenage audience. Thus, Stages Repertory Theatre and the Shakespeare Globe Centre of the Southwest present Shakespeare, not because he is a cultural icon, but because his works are possess a startling relevance for young people. Mr. Cravens points out the conflicts that teenagers suffer tragically in ROMEO&JULIET and HAMLET and comically in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA are as true to the lives of young people today as they were to those of Elizabethan England. "The very fact that these plays were written in Elizabethan England is part of their relevance -- when kids can see their problems mirrored in the lives of characters created 400 years ago, they realize that they are not alone and not the first teenagers to experience alienation, or to consider suicide or to feel totally misunderstood by their parents."
Our Shakespeare-In-The-House productions, which tour area schools and libraries, employ professional actors and some of Houston's best young talent, drawn primarily, but not exclusively, from University of Houston's School of Theater. For these young actors, Outreach serves both as a source of income from within their chosen field, and as a rigorous training ground in classical theater. We are creating not only new audiences for live theater, but also actors for that theater. An extraordinarily high percentage of Outreach actors continue to earn their living in film and/or theater here and throughout the country.