Cal Shakes Director of Artistic Learning Trish Tillman reports from the field.
The entire Artistic Learning staff was out in Walnut Creek Friday at the Diablo Actors’ Ensemble theater for our first assembly run with Henry the Eighth. We had a crowd of about 20, half kids, half parents, all homeschoolers. They were a very nice and appreciative audience; we got three student actors up on stage to do the kid participation part of the show, and they were great. In our Q&A afterward, the students all thought Henry was terribly greedy and mean, sympathized with the discarded Queen Katherine, and were very suspicious of Anne Boleyn’s intentions—interesting in that Shakespeare portrays her quite positively in this play. Our actors downed large coffees before the show, did a loud and energetic warmup, and got ready to do their five (at least) costume changes each.
The show only lasts about 40 minutes, so we were running around madly backstage—and in the audience to help the student actors—the entire time. It was fast and furious and a lot of fun, and the audience got a real taste of the politics and manipulation of the English court of the time, which we compared to the constantly changing alliances and attempts to get ahead that you see in today’s competition-type reality shows, and even in social settings when there’s something that someone really really wants.
Now the show goes to Orinda Intermediate School, where the entire seventh grade has just finished studying and performing scenes from the actual play through our classroom residency program, so they’ll already be primed for the experience. We had a great success with a Julius Caesar assembly that they commissioned from us last year, and we are excited to get back to them again.
Kudos to Emily Morrison who directed the whole thing, to Jenna Stich for cutting the script, to Sam Fryer for the DAE space and for running tech for us, and Katherine Goldman, one of our 2011 interns who jumped right into child actor wrangling, packing costumes, doing box office, and generally just being awesome.