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San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival Hosts Moscow School

The Bard Proves His International Appeal

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks at how Russian students are connecting with William Shakespeare work four centuries after his death.

The 8th Annual San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival (April 27 at noon in Balboa Park) proves the international appeal of the Bard with a school from Moscow joining the lineup.

Every April for the past 7 years the San Diego Shakespeare Society has celebrated the Bard’s birthday with its San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival. The event brings out hundreds of students from elementary school to college to perform scenes inspired by the writing of William Shakespeare. This year there will even be a school from Moscow.

“Our school has always been interested in different kinds of cultural interactions with different countries and with United States in particular,” says Nina Sukhova, English teacher at the Slavic Anglo-American School in Moscow, “This year we learned about the Shakespeare Festival and we got interested in it because we’ve been organizing a Shakespeare Festival in Moscow for let’s say the last 13 years already.”

Twelve students ranging in age from 12 to 15 from the Slavic Anglo-American School in Moscow arrived on Wednesday night and held an impromptu rehearsal in Old Town yesterday.

“So today we are going to rehearse our play, “ says Sukhova, “And we are here on the green outdoors and we are going to try a few scenes today to see how people will sound outdoors to see if people can hear them or not so let’s see what happens.”

For the San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival on Saturday, the students are presenting a collage of scenes.

“So we took monologues from different plays and put them together and the plot is actually we call the play ‘In Search of Inspiration,’” adds Sukhova, “The idea is that Shakespeare doesn’t know what to write about, he has no inspiration. And he listens to different women’s characters, finally of course we decide love is the main feeling.”

“I’m playing Shakespeare,” says 14-year-old Artyom Potapov, “he’s in search for an ideal women character and so in this scene we look through all his women characters.”

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Nic McVicker

Anastasia Shumakova as Juliet.

Like Juliet from “Romeo and Juliet.”

Anastasia Shumakova performs Juliet’s famous balcony scene.

“She’s talking about her love to Romeo, and she’s asking God why he is from other family. I think it is the greatest love story in the world.

Although Shakespeare wrote his plays 400 years ago in London, they still speak to a 15-year-old girl living in 21st century Russia.

When she reads Shakespeare’s line: “But my true love is grown to such excess. I cannot sum up sum of half my wealth,” there is a passion behind the words that makes you believe she knows what Juliet is talking about.

“I think Juliet is in some kind of way similar to me because I am really a romantic person. I sometimes can be emotional like she was and if I love someone it’s for a long time, if not forever.”

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Nic McVicker

The Slavic Anglo-American School in Moscow performs at the San Diego Studenr Shakespeare Festival on April 27.

The San Diego Shakespeare Society advocates teaching Shakespeare to students at a young. Sukhova sees the benefits for her English as a second language students.

“Well first of all, for those who learn English. It’s a great experience because it’s real good, interesting English, which the children do not hear nowadays. Our children speak very good English. So this is another step for them in studying the language and another good experience and we hope very much that this is our beginning of a new event which we will participate in maybe annually.”

Which would suit Anastasia Shumakova just fine.

“Shakespeare is quite difficult at first sight but when he read it a second time and third time it becomes easy and Shakespeare writes really cool.”

That’s some compliment for a guy who’s been dead for centuries.

The San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival is Saturday April 25 beginning at noon. A parade begins at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park and then moves to four outdoor stages lining the Prado. The event is free.

The Soviet Union has made some impressive film adaptations of Shakespeare. Here’s a list:

“Othello” (1955) directed by Sergei Yutkevich

“Romeo and Juliet” (1955) directed by L. Armstram and L. Lavrovsky

“Hamlet” (1964) directed by Grigori Kozintsev

“King Lear” (1971) directed by Grigori Kozintsev


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