Friday, October 3, 2014

FSU/Asolo Conservatory's New Stages Program

Each year the second year students in the FSU/Asolo Conservatory program perform a series of four shows.  I fell in love with last year's students well before the curtain fell on their first production. So I was excited to have the chance to see them perform one last time as a company before getting into this season's shows with the newly minted second year students.   The fact that the show -- a 45 minute version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream -- will be traveling to schools across Florida made the production even more special.

Conservatory third years taking
questions post-show
It is no exaggeration when I say that I smiled throughout the entire performance.  The audience laughed along as the play moved from Athens Academy (Go, Minotaurs!) where Demetrius and Lysander vie for Hermia's love to a forest where crazily dressed fairies make their mischief to a play-within-a-play performed by maintenance staff.  I was swept into the story at the beginning and the high energy of the actors and creativity of the adaptation held my interest until the final bow.

More talk-back
This will be the seventh year of the New Stages program, an extension of Asolo Rep's Education and Outreach offerings for schools.  Over the next few weeks, the company will appear more than 40 times in productions in cities as widespread as Tallahassee to Tampa to Miami.  It is estimated that 12,000 students will be reached,  many of whom will experience the magic of live theater for the first time.  Each performance will include a talk-back afterwards at which the students will have the chance to ask questions of the cast.

The entire cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream
A study guide about the show has been prepared for teachers to use with their students before seeing the production.  The programs for Asolo Rep's shows are always chockful of interesting information, and the study guide is no exception.  One section succinctly highlights the dueling perspectives on whether Shakespearean plays should be modernized or performed as in the bard's time.  In addition to laying out the two sides in the debate, tidbits of info are included such as the fact that The Lion King is a take on Hamlet.  (Who knew?)  There's also a terrific section that introduces students to the different groups within the play.  The fairies, for instance, are outsiders who didn't want to live within the confines of society.  This type of information is sure to help kids relate to the characters they see on stage.  Click here if you're interested in taking a look at the guide.

Perhaps the most exciting performance will be held on October 17th at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Culver Bay.  In this production, the cast will be joined by American Sign Language interpreters who will perform as the actors' "shadows."  I can only imagine how powerful this experience will be for actors and audience members alike.

If your interest is piqued and you're in the Sarasota area, the performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream on October 11, October 23 and November 8 are open to the public.  The shows will take place at different venues. For more information, click here.

Each time we go to a Conservatory performance, I thank Dorrit for suggesting last year that we get season tickets.  But don't take my word for how much fun it is to see these stars of the future.  Check it out for yourself.   The season kicks off with David Mamet's The Water Engine, which runs from November 4 - 23.  I hope to see you there.

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