L. A. Drama Club Brings Shakespeare to Youngsters

| March 2, 2012 | 0 Comments
LA Drama Club in Shakespeare's Cymbaline

DRAMA CLUB members explored the heroes and villains of Shakespeare's "Cymbeline."

The Los Angeles Drama Club began in 2004 when two local moms, who were also professional actors, gathered a handful of neighborhood kids in the garden of a Brookside home to learn about the world of Shakespeare. Today, the club hosts programs for more than 100 youngsters in the community. Three programs, run by artistic director Blaire Baron Larsen and executive director Julia Walker Wyson, constitute the core.

Shakespeare Youth Festival LA

The Shakespeare Youth Festival LA is the Club’s repertory season. Each year in the spring, the Club presents three plays with four performances each. Ticket prices are kept low so that the Festival is accessible to as many people as possible. The performances are held at the Lost Studio at 130 S. LaBrea Ave. “The kids perform fully mounted Shakespeare productions in a theatre, not a church basement or a stark auditorium,” said Larsen.

Community outreach

Currently being developed is Shakespeare in the City, which offers free and low-cost classes and workshops. The Club has formed a troupe in the West Adams/Mid City area that involves children ages seven to 14 in all aspects of acting, theater and Shakespeare, culminating in periodic performances in the community. “We started with eight kids; we now have 26 with a wait list of eight,” said Larsen.

Traveling ensemble

The Willful Minors, a traveling ensemble, brings the Bard to schools, local events, senior care facilities and hospitals. The Minors have performed at the Jefferson Park Public Library, a senior center and the Wilshire Ebell Theater. “We don’t discriminate,” laughed Larsen. “We go to fancy places too.

“It’s great, and something we can do at the drop of a hat. The kids have a gallery of monologues, so they can just do it,” she said.

“Our plays are controlled, but these aren’t,” added Wyson. “So it’s a wonderful experience for them because they don’t know what to expect.”

LA Drama Club play Shakespeare's Cymbeline

DRAMA CLUB members explored the heroes and villains of Shakespeare's "Cymbeline."

Future plans include an excursion on public transportation. “I learned that a lot of the kids had never been on the Metro. So we’re going to take them. They can perform at stops, and then in Union Station,” Larsen said.

The Drama Club recently became a non-profit, which has opened up all sorts of opportunities. These include teaching Shakespeare in other communities, taking the kids on the road, creating a scholarship fund and offering free community-building social justice classes, said Larsen.

Add to that a new class for first through fourth graders called The Mustardseeds, a summer program and the Play-Acting for Social Justice program that takes on issues like bullying, and it’s no wonder Larsen and Wyson are soliciting help in creating a framework that will support their goals.

“The giant task of managing the Drama Club has always been a labor of love, but we also realize that two people producing and directing three Shakespeare plays, teaching Improv, running outreach programs and overseeing it all is not a sustainable business model,” said Larsen.

“We have the Bard; you bring the Board,” reads an appeal for board members that is being distributed to community members. The board of directors will serve as a source of advice, energy, focus, financial resources and fundraiser planning.

For more information, go to LosAngelesDramaClub.com or call 323-319-3597.

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Category: People

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