Two young people, meeting and romancing against the will of their parents, believe their love and passion is so great, they make secret plans and impetuous choices that result in tragedy. Sounds like a story pulled from today’s headlines or an entertainment newscast – but this story is more that 400 years old – William Shakespeare’s tale, Romeo and Juliet.
The Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival will be touring local high schools this spring with a presentation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for ninth grade students, most of who will be studying the play. The presentation uses just five actors and fits into a class period with time for questions and answers afterwards.
The Festival was able to present this class-sized production free of charge on a limited basis in 2012, with much success. To grow and expand the program to serve more students, SCSF is seeking program sponsors for financial support. In addition, a “Sneak Preview” fundraiser is scheduled March 1 at the Festival’s temporary home in Valencia.
Shakespeare’s insight into human character is why his works remain the most produced and stand as some of the finest ever written. Studying the play in English class teaches wonderful lessons on the structure of the language, the poetry and the imagery. Many times the play is presented in class as a story of star-crossed young love, but the true lesson of Romeo and Juliet is in the pathos of the story. The timelessness is what connects with young audiences.
School officials tell us that students who experience Shakespeare’s work performed live are often inspired to learn more and read more.
One teacher from Valencia High wrote about the 2012 presentation: “This program was GREAT … I will take my students to see it again … the program made a great impression on my students.”
When actors speak the language, it comes alive, and the lessons resonate with the students. The SCSF presentation consists of selected scenes, focusing on the capricious nature of the characters’ actions, in a contemporary setting, that leads to the tragic conclusion.
“This play has an important message for ninth graders to hear,” said Mary Ferguson, the Festival’s Educational Outreach coordinator. “Teenagers have been going through this since the beginning of time.”
With continual challenges facing our schools, snowballing budget cuts, growing class sizes, and diminishing resources for teachers, arts programming is becoming increasingly scarce. For many students, SCSF’s presentations may be their first – and sometimes only – live theater experience. The overall cost for the tour is estimated at $4,000, which pays for director, actors, swords, fight choreography, and selected props and costume pieces. The Festival is proposing a $300 cost for each school, with additional funding coming from sponsors.
“We work very hard raising money for this program,” says David Stears, the Festival’s Executive Director. “Our goal for the future is to make this program available to all our local high schools free of charge”
To support the tour, SCSF has launched the Keep Romeo and Juliet ALIVE campaign. Sponsorships are available at all levels, from Festival Title Sponsor at $4,000, individual school sponsorships of $650, or other amounts determined by the donor’s generosity. All support is gratefully encouraged and graciously appreciated.
The special Sneak Preview night on March 1 will begin at 6 p.m. and will feature wine, hors d’oeuvres and a special performance of Romero and Juliet, with all proceeds going to support the tour and educational outreach efforts. Tickets are $35 per person.
To make a donation to support Keep Romeo and Juliet ALIVE, or for tickets to the preview event, please contact Mary Ferguson at email@example.com, or call (661) 799-3378.
Other programs of the SCSF include the free summer “Shakespeare In the Park” performances in July, the Apprentice Program which offers high school students an opportunity to produce and perform in their own show in concert with the festival and a holiday school program bringing classics to the classrooms.
Follow the Shakespeare Festival at facebook.com/SCShakespeareFest or follow the tour at facebook.com/ShakespeareTour. The Santa Clarita Shakespeare Festival is a non-profit 501c3 organization.