Our first student audience for Much Ado had a great time today. The theater gods blessed us with temperate weather, a virtual army of kid-wrangling staff, extra volunteers and house staff, and a full audience. (Which is a trend that will continue, since all of the fall student shows are sold out!)
I sat in the house with a bunch of middle school boys, who just couldn’t get over how much kissing there was, but I think my favorite moment was when Claudio discovers that Hero is alive at the end of the play and gives her the sweetest hug, which elicited a huge “Awwww!” from nearly every girl in the audience. Nick Childress (Claudio) won more points later in the Q&A with the actors afterwards when a student, half seriously, half jokingly, asked if Nick’s girlfriend minded his having to kiss Emily (Kitchens, who plays Hero) in the play. Nick took the question very seriously and said that, yeah, he and his girlfriend had to really talk about it, and she accepts that it’s part of his job, and that “she knows I love her.” Another big “Awwww!” from the girls (and I think some of the adults, too.)
Dogberry (played by Danny Scheie, above) was also a big hit—although the vocabulary was a little out of their range, his buffoonery and exclamations of “I am an ass” of course got big laughs. But, beautifully, it also seemed to make him quite endearing.
Andy Murray (Benedick) and Domenique Lozano (Beatrice) also involved the audience wonderfully—when Benedick realized he was in love with Beatrice, Andy high-fived a student in the front row. Then Domenique, skulking through the third row to overhear the gossip on stage, hid by sitting in a student’s seat and putting the girl on her lap as a shield. They were very professional and fun and the students felt really part of the action. Every group left in a good mood and talking about the play.
I am really, really proud that we can share our extraordinary theater work with so many students. We do great stuff here at Cal Shakes, but art of such a high level demands to be seen and shared with young people especially. I heard it said today on NPR that youth participation in art is “rehearsing for a better society,” and I know that to be absolutely true.