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Preview: 6th Annual San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival

La Jolla Country Day performing at the First Annual San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival.
Beth Accomando
La Jolla Country Day performing at the First Annual San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival.

The Play's the Thing

Straying from cinema but not from my passions, here's a video preview of the San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival that takes place Saturday April 30 from noon till 4 in Balboa Park.

Once again the play's the thing as the San Diego Shakespeare Society kicks off its sixth annual Student Festival in Balboa Park. Here's a preview the event and a visit to a pair of classrooms preparing to perform this weekend.

San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival

QUEEN: We do declare this festival open.


MACBETH: Lay on Macduff, and damned be him that first cries hold enough.

This Saturday April 30th at noon some 300 San Diego students will perform Shakespeare on five outdoor stages in Balboa Park. The Student Festival was launched in 2006 by the San Diego Shakespeare Society, a non profit group that works with schools to bring the Bard into the classroom and then into the Park.

The San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival will include more than 300 students this year.
Beth Accomando
The San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival will include more than 300 students this year.

Monica Hall teaches drama at Carlsbad High School.

MONICA HALL (Drama Teacher, Carlsbad High School): It's amazing. It starts with a big parade with all these students and my kids get a kick out of seeing there's little kids from elementary school, there's middle school kids... the exposure to how it was done in Shakespeare's time having babies crying, people playing musical instruments, things that we'd in regular theater would think of as distracting elements, it's all there in Balboa Park.

ANGELA LATHEM (Creative Dramatics Teacher, La Jolla Country Day): Some schools perform scenes from one play, some will do a montage, some will take the sonnets and interpret them. And then there are some schools that will take some of his pieces and put a complete twist upon them, and overlap them, and do some avant garde sort of things with them.


STUDENT: The revelers are entering!

This year Lathem's 3rd and 4th graders will be putting a "Grease" spin on "Much Ado About Nothing."

ANGELA LATHEM: We have cut it down but it's still Shakespeare's actual words. SO the children will see the work and they will read through it a few times. We'll talk about it as a group and say what does this mean, what does that mean, does that make sense?

JOHN ATWOOD (4th Grader, La Jolla Country Day): She were an excellent wife for Benedict... I'm gonna try to do something really, really hard, which is to make Senor Benedict and Lady Beatrice like each other a lot...

ANGELA LANTHEM: So all the expression I just saw in your face when you were telling me that, did you guys see that too? Where he was like I'm gonna do this, it's gonna be really fun. Okay? And even your body language opened up a little bit.

Hilltop High performing "Taming of the Shrew" at a previous Festival.
Beth Accomando
Hilltop High performing "Taming of the Shrew" at a previous Festival.

Patricia Lynch is one of the directors on the board of the San Diego Shakespeare Society.

PATRICA LYNCH (Director, San Diego Shakespeare Society Board): We like to come in and offer whatever help we can whether it's at the beginning of the process, where actors will come in and work with students and teachers or what I do -- and the other directors do -- is come in at the end and offer any suggestions toward the closing of the rehearsal process.

LAURA PARKER (10th grader, Carlsbad High School): They've come in and helped with our scenes and really shown us what has been, it has been amazing for me and they worked with Othello in our group and it really helped him understand the emotions so it was really great to see that workshop.

PERFORMERS: The Tragedy of Othello.

NICO RAISBECK (11th Grader, Carlsbad High School): Shakespeare is wild. You think he's some old stuffy guy from English time period whatever, but no he writes some pretty crazy stuff.

IAGO: I have it. It is engendered! Hell and night must bring this monstrous birth to the world's light.

MONICA HALL: All my students, they excel in language arts because they have been exposed to so much Shakespeare. In fact, there have been SAT questions where my students have been able to use quotes from Shakespeare that they know from performing and they have gotten really good grades on their SAT tests that way.

ANGELA LATHEM: They get to expand their vocabulary quite a bit and they really enjoy playing with the language a lot. It's a lot of fun to them and the stories really have universal values as well so even our story that we are expressing, "Much Ado," there are a lot of overlapping issues involved in the story and we have those conversations about it too so they really grow a lot in the course of the class. So it's really exciting for them.

PATRICA LYNCH: It's invaluable and it's so much fun. It's fun for the students, it's fun for the audience, it's just very, very exciting.

CAST: Give me your hands if we be friends and Robin shall restore amends.