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PA Schools Experience 'Much Ado About Shakespeare'

Nov 03, 2014 09:08AM ● Published by Erica Shames

Shakespeare’s spirited comedy offers a tale of two courtships in the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s touring production of Much Ado About Nothing. The 15th annual WillPower Tour travels to schools throughout the state through Nov. 21.

For the seventh year, PSF was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which has helped WillPower log more than 12,000 miles and serve 40 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. PSF’s WillPower Tour is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a national program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

“To be fully appreciated, Shakespeare must be experienced in performance,” says producing artistic director Patrick Mulcahy. “Students connect to Shakespeare’s characters and their human dilemmas in a much more profound and direct way in a live production.”

Recent research confirms this. Field trips to live theater enhance literary knowledge, tolerance and empathy among students, according to a study published earlier this month by researchers in the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform. The researchers found that viewing high-quality theatre productions leads to enhanced knowledge of the plot, increased vocabulary, greater tolerance and improved ability to read the emotions of others.

The centerpiece of PSF’s educational programming, the WillPower Tour has been performed at more than 150 schools, and for more than 130,000 students since its inception in 2000. The tour meets academic standards, and includes an 80-minute production with set and costumes, trained actor-teachers, workshops, and a classroom study guide.

“I so appreciate the opportunity you provided the students with, especially in regard to reinforcing the curriculum,” one Easton Area High School teacher wrote. “That actors and audiences still care about Shakespeare’s works and the inherent messages to mankind gives an English teacher hope.”

Much Ado is directed by Gina Lamparella, whose Broadway acting credits include Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Misérables and others. Scenic design by seven-time Emmy winner Bob Phillips and costumes designed by Janus Stefanowicz.

The tour is being performed at schools in ten counties in Pennsylvania, including Berks, Bucks, Delaware, Lehigh, and Northampton, two counties in New Jersey, Monroe and Camden, and New Castle County, Delaware.

Fully titled the Linny Fowler WillPower Tour in honor of an endowment gift by its namesake, Linny Fowler, who passionately believed in the power of theatre and education, the tour has several dates available.

To book the tour, school representatives may contact Director of Education Jill Arington at 610-282-9455, ext. 9, jill.arington@pashakespeare.org or pashakespeare.org/willpower.

The National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest presents Shakespeare in American Communities. Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is one of 40 professional theater companies selected to participate in bringing the finest productions of Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students in communities across the United States. This is the twelfth year of this national program, the largest tour of Shakespeare in American history.

Artistic Team

Gina Lamparella (Director) directed WillPower tours of Macbeth (2013) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2012), and PSF’s summer production of Beauty and the Beast last year. Other PSF: assistant director of Hamlet (2011) and played Miranda in The Tempest  (1999). As an actor, she appeared on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera, A Little Night Music, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy, Jane Eyre and Les Misérables.

Bob Phillips (Set Design) PSF design credits include more than 40 productions over the past 19 years, including last summer’s Main Stage repertory productions of Macbeth and Lend Me a Tenor. Other PSF: The Importance of Being Earnest, Measure for Measure, The Tempest, The Winter's Tale, Around the World in 80 Days. Resident Designer for Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and Centenary Stage Company. Regional: Florida Studio Theatre, Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Alpine Theatre Project, 1812 Company and the Arden Theatre. TV: Another World, Search for Tomorrow, Encyclopedia, and Sesame Street. Awards: Villager, Madison, Outer Critics Circle and Lillie Stoates awards for his stage designs, and six Emmys for his television work.

Janus Stefanowicz (Costume Designer) Barrymore Award winner and resident costume designer for Villanova University Theatre, Stefanowicz frequently designs for Philadelphia Theatre Company.

Cast

James R. Alexander (Don Pedro) makes his PSF debut with this production. His classical credits include King Henry in Henry IV Part I (Long Island Shakespeare Festival) and Caliban in The Tempest (Asylum Theater Company). He has also participated in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages Festival. Additional credits include Lt. Kaffee in A Few Good Men and Mikey in The Normal Heart.

Amy Crossman (Hero/Verges) Recent credits include Roman Fever at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, King Lear at Theater2020, Julius Caesar at The Hudson Warehouse, and As You Like It at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. She works at the Atlantic Acting School and mentors young playwrights through the educational programs at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Training: Drew University, Upright Citizens Brigade, ESPA @ Primary Stages.

Kenny Fedorko (Don John/Friar) NYC credits include Cymbeline (Cloten), Much Ado About Nothing (Dogberry) and BOX, Listen… and Shrewd with Improbable Stage Company, where he is a founding and active member. Regional tours: One Night (Will) and Four Hearts (Brian) with Equalogy Inc. and The Industrious Mr. Franklin (Ben Franklin). Recipient of the Paul Newman Trophy 2013 for Best Actor (Thom Pain) at Kenyon College.

Paige Gober (Stage Manager) has worked with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, and Universal Orlando Resort. She recently completed a stage management apprenticeship at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater where she was a Production Assistant on The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby Parts 1 & 2.

Laura Iris Hill (Dogberry/Margaret/Messenger) trained at BAPA in Australia and is thrilled to be returning to PSF after last year’s Macbeth. Other Shakespeare includes Cymbeline (Hudson Shakespeare), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth performed in Tokyo. New York theatre includes Cupid and Psyche (Turn to Flesh), Cosi and Speaking in Tongues. Laura was also a recurring guest on the long-running Aussie TV show Neighbours.

Aaron Kirkpatrick (Benedick) returns to PSF after playing Lucio in Measure for Measure, 2013. Favorite roles include: Brick in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, directed by Marti Maraden, Tupolski in The Pillowman, Don Pedro in Much Ado for Kentucky Shakes. Aaron holds a MFA from Indiana University.

Luke Massengill (Borachio) began his professional career in Rome, Italy, where he spent four years working as an actor and writer. Credits also include five years with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespearience Tour, playing the roles of Mercutio, Puck, Iago, Sir Toby and Macbeth. Luke has also worked as an instructor for The School of Theater for the past six years.

Hunter Ringsmith (Claudio/Sexton) returns to PSF after appearing in Fiddler on the Roof this summer as Motel. Other credits: Macbeth in Macbeth and Antonio u/s in Twelfth Night at Great River Shakespeare Festival; Dick/Peter Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at The Dallas Theatre Center; and Nels in I Remember Mama at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre. BFA: Southern Methodist University, where he performed in The Rimers of Eldritch, Othello, Mercury Fur, and This Beautiful City.

Antoinette Robinson (Beatrice) Recent credits include: New York Classical Theater: As You Like It; Queens Company: Sir Patient Fancy; Hyde Park Theater: The Mother with the Hat; Seattle Children's Theater: Edge of Peace; Guthrie Theater: Time Sensitive. MFA from the University of Texas at Austin.

David Wayne (Leonato) Coriolanus, Coriolanus-The African Warrior; Octavius, Antony & Cleopatra (Harlem Shakes). Off Bway/NY: Octavius, Antony & Cleopatra (TWAS/Poets Den Theater); Jason of Tougou, Pecong (TWAS/National Black Theater-Audelco Award nom, Supporting Actor); Lem, The Emperor Jones (Irish Rep Theater); Laertes, Hamlet (TWAS/Wksp Theatre); Prince, Moon on a Rainbow Shawl (New Federal Theater); Messenger, Medea (TWAS/Nat’l Black Theater); Damian, his play Love and Marriage and New York City (Billie Holiday Theater, UK, Canada). Reg/International: Richard Foster in the Toronto production of his play, Ecstasy; Sebastian, The Tempest (NCSF); Friday, Robinson Crusoe (OST); Roderigo, Othello (VSF). “Face” of Xoom.com. NYC Council Award for Excellence in the Arts.

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