Literature Everywhere: Independent Shakespeare Company
Last November, I posted about an incredible performance by the Independent Shakespeare Company of Los Angeles. What I left out, of course, is the Shakespeare. I had gone to see a staged reading of a play and I’d been inspired to bring that idea into the classroom, but I neglected to talk about the incredible company of actors and their mission in the Los Angeles area.
So, what is ISCLA? They are a brilliant group that works on
creating inspiring, accessible theater and bringing it to as wide an audience as possible.
This description, quoted from their website, is entirely too humble. They are a gifted bunch that produce several small productions throughout the year, but leave their greatest work for the summer, when they put on free performances of Shakespeare in the park.
Last year, they moved from their former, tiny home in Barnsdall Park to humongous Griffith Park. And, somehow, they kept the shows free. This year, they’ll perform three different shows. All for.. did I mention this? FREE.
No, you can’t take your students on a field trip to see the shows (not on a summer evening, anyway), but you can let them know of the incredible opportunities available. You could also try to convince your school to host a performance. Throughout the spring, they travel to schools to present both classical renditions and grade-appropriate versions of the Bard’s classics.
More important than actually witnessing the performances, though, is the excitement that ISCLA can invoke in students. Students should be inspired by the knowledge that people are so thrilled with the works of a playwright who lived and died almost 500 years ago. I know I wouldn’t spend my life earning a meagre salary and performing the same lines over and over again if those lines weren’t constantly electrifying.
Your students don’t know how awesome Shakespeare can be. Here’s an opportunity to expose them to the best that western literature has to offer. And, if you’re not in Los Angeles, talk to your local theatre company. Or, start your own. Send your students to the playground with The Tempest. I’m sure they’ll find more than one Trinculo and Stephano to rope into their production.