Shakespeare comes to life

Sixteen La Cañada High School seniors took a field trip this week, but in reality, they were bringing the field trip, in the form of “Shakespearience,” to more than 3,000 students from all over Southern California.

“Shakespearience” draws thousands of students from Huntington Beach to Hesperia, Palmdale, Lancaster, Burbank and Glendale inside Glendale’s historic Alex Theater for a one-of-a-kind show. Performing at the event is a 13-year tradition for La Cañada High’s would-be actors and actresses.

“It’s a field-trip play designed to introduce middle and high school students to Shakespeare,” said Justin Eick, director of La Cañada High’s Theatre Department.

“Shakespearience” is almost like a medley of William Shakespeare’s works. The program integrates scenes from the classics “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” into a single play.

A handful of seniors in La Cañada High’s advanced theater program perform the 90-minute production to a house filled with their peers. To date, more than 50,000 students and teachers have watched “Shakespearience.”

“For roughly 50% of these students, it’s the first play they’ve ever, ever seen before — their first theatrical experience of any kind. That’s a great feeling,” Eick said.

Students arealso given an extensive Shakespeare study plan to reinforce what they see on the stage.

“Teachers throughout the Southland have integrated this into the core curriculum to enhance what they are learning in the classroom,” Eick said. Hopes are that the experience will be one the actors remember for the rest of their lives.

“One of the most exciting parts is we bring in professional actors, who are also teachers, to work alongside the students in the play to give them an authentic, professional experience,” he said.

Eick has also had students tell him performing “Shakespearience” helped prepare them for studying Shakespeare’s work in college and made them feel they were positively impacting their community.

“It’s similar to donating your time to a local charity,” Eick said. “It provides the kids with a community-service oriented activity that shows them the value of giving back to education and other students.”

This week’s final production of Shakespearience is today from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Alex Theater, located at 216 North Brand Blvd. in Glendale. General admission is $30. There will be additional performances, same time same place, on March 11 and 12.

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