Community Residencies have grown from relationships that took root through our creation of new work. Through partnerships with youth development programs that connect their participants to the classics and our Main Stage productions, these residencies provide artistic forums to nourish youth voices. We plug our Teaching Artists and Main Stage performers into a variety of settings to help cultivate and showcase the creativity of at-risk youth in the Bay Area.
Our 2008 production of Twelfth Night offered intriguing avenues for exploring identity and gender through the expansive lens of Shakespeare’s most profound romantic comedy. As with last fall’s Lear Project, this venture allowed us to deepen community partnerships while integrating participants and community relationships into the life of our organization. We offered artist-led residencies through after-school programs for youth from Oakland's Skyline High School, a long-time Artistic Learning residency partner. Teaching Artist Eden Jequinto worked with members of Skyline's Gay-Straight Alliance, Drama Club, QPoC (Queer and Questioning People of Color Club), and students enrolled in a Social Living class to explore questions of identity and gender raised by Shakespeare's play.
Over the course of four weeks, the students wrote scenes that transported the concerns of Twelfth Night to the halls of Skyline High. At the end of the course, students performed their work for a Bruns audience that included Main Stage players Catherine Castellanos, Danny Scheie, and Stephen Barker Turner (who appeared in Twelfth Night as Maria, Feste, and Orsino, respectively). A lengthy discussion with the actors followed—about Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, being an actor, and the myriad challenges faced by these high schoolers. The Twelfth Night Project engaged 60 young people, giving them access to the poetry and power of Shakespeare’s work, and their own creative voices, in collaboration with professional theater artists.
In connection with our 2007 Main Stage season, Cal Shakes Teaching Artists Elizabeth Carter and Eden Jequinto led multiple workshops as part of a series of artist residencies with San Francisco’s Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC) and Oakland's Youth Empowerment School (in partnership with East Side Arts Alliance). Carter and Jequinto guided students through an exploration of King Lear; students then drew from their own experience and language to reinterpret scenes from the play.
The workshops culminated in a performance of original work written by residency students with professional actors from our Main Stage production of King Lear. Staged in the Bruns Amphitheater Upper Grove, the September 29, 2007 event featured actors Erik Lochtefeld (who portrayed Edgar in Lear), Delia MacDougall (Goneril), Sarah Nealis (Cordelia), and Jason Sanford (Servant/Ensemble), who performed scenes created by each group, along with selected monologues.
The event preceded our Saturday matinee performance of Lear, and was attended by an enthusiastic audience of nearly fifty students, youth group staff, and Cal Shakes patrons. Following a picnic lunch, the students joined other Cal Shakes audience members for the King Lear matinee. They rounded the day out with a backstage tour led by MacDougall, Nealis, and then-Associate Artistic Director Joy Meads. This project—part of our ongoing work to engage new communities in the creation of new plays inspired by classic literature—was generously underwritten by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Bernard Osher Foundation.
California Shakespeare Theater is committed to encouraging youth—through workshops and residencies that link to Shakespeare plays—to think, imagine, read, write, and speak for themselves. We aim to inspire young people, cultivating a lasting curiosity about Shakespeare while stirring their own creative voices and fostering their investment in the arts. Beginning in 2005, Cal Shakes engaged hundreds of juvenile offenders by igniting their creativity and honing their literacy skills through Shakespeare-based writing and performance workshops.