FST is once again thrilled to be a recipient of the NEA’s Shakespeare in American Communities Initiative. See below for their Press Release.
Arts Midwest Announces 2014–2015 Shakespeare in American Communities Grants
Grants Mark 12th Year of Support Totaling $11,400,625
Minneapolis, MN – Arts Midwest today announced $1 million in grants to 40 nonprofit, professional theater companies across 25 states, plus the District of Columbia, to perform the works of William Shakespeare for students through Shakespeare in American Communities. The awards mark the twelfth consecutive year of Shakespeare in American Communities, a national program managed by Arts Midwest in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Each of the participating theater companies will present productions of Shakespeare plays to students from at least 10 schools.
Accompanying educational activities include in-school residencies, workshops, or post-performance discussions. Performances will take place between August 1, 2014, and July 31, 2015. Shakespeare in American Communities introduces middle and high school students to the power of live theater and the masterpieces of William Shakespeare. Since the program’s inception in 2003, Shakespeare in American Communities has benefitted more than 2.25 million individuals, including 1.9 million students, with live performances and educational activities.
“Arts Midwest’s partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts continues to ensure young and diverse audiences across the country experience the greatest works of Shakespeare,” says David Fraher, president & CEO of Arts Midwest. “The creative programming and unique approaches to outreach presented by Shakespeare in American Communities grantees are quite remarkable and we look forward to seeing the impact of their work throughout the coming year.”
Organizations receiving $25,000 grants for the 2014–2015 season include:
Please see the complete list of the 40 theater companies that have been selected to participate in Shakespeare in American Communities for 2014-2015. One hundred and two theater companies across the United States have taken part in the NEA’s Shakespeare program since its inception 12 years ago. These companies have presented 33 of Shakespeare’s works through 7,700 performances and more than 24,000 educational activities at more than 7,200 schools in 3,100 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Additionally, to enhance the educational impact of Shakespeare in American Communities, Arts Midwest and the NEA have developed a comprehensive Shakespeare in American Communities website in order to share resources and grantee spotlights.
About Arts Midwest
Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six nonprofit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, visit www.artsmidwest.org.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. For more information, visit arts.gov.
From the Daily News Miner Review, July 25 2014
FAIRBANKS – Performed with quicksilver fluency, the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre’s production of “As You Like It” is perhaps one of the most rollicking good times put forth from the group in recent years.
That’s saying a lot, because FST always manages to deliver quite well with its summer productions, but there’s something different about “As You Like It” that sets it apart in terms of audience captivity and overall enjoyment. Some of that has to do with the running time.
Two hours and 20 minutes is pretty good when it comes to Bard productions, especially with your typical ADHD, smart phone addicted audience who would have no problem running after squirrels in a second’s notice. And, given the production’s location in the woods of the UAF campus, finding squirrels to chase is really quite simple.
The abbreviated time helps, but even that wouldn’t necessarily make or break a production if the acting backbone isn’t in place to make it shine. Thankfully, “As You Like It” has no problem in that arena as the talented trope brings this comically complicated love story to life.
Kat Wodtke leads the way (difficult to assign her that role given the strength of her fellow performers) as Rosalind, in particular, in her character’s gender changing switch as Ganymede. Saucy and colorful, she shines with aplomb, all the way through when she delivers one of Shakespeare’s most enjoyable epilogues.
Levi Ben-Israel portrays her love interest Orlando in a modest and magnanimous manner. With a square jaw and stoic stature, he was an ideal person to portray the moralistic hero of the play.
John Welch Moffatt does an impressive job in dual and contrasting roles as the play’s semi-villain Duke Frederick, and on the opposite end, the overly melancholic Jaques. Tara Kelso is delightful as Celia, providing a conventional balance to her rebellious cousin Rosalind, but at the same time, displaying her own moments of wit.
Speaking of wit, it is Andrew Cassel’s performance as Touchstone, the court jester, that provides the shows funniest moments with Cassel’s exceptionally razor sharp timing and exaggerated physical movements and facial gestures (not to mention a few sound effects) consuming the stage at times.
Director Tom Robenolt does a good job slightly modernizing the play with a nod to a post-Civil War era, but it is never in your face or taken to extremes. After all, there isn’t much reason to mess with the original as it is; it carries its weight simply through dialogue and clever story alone. The ending, in which the take-charge Rosalind personally oversees the union of several couples (including herself), is not unlike the tidy finales found in sitcoms of today, or, for that matter old Scooby Doo cartoons. The entrance and exit of characters is flawless in execution, almost to the extent of being a well-timed dance.
The set, while attractive enough, doesn’t seem to pack as much of the “Oooh!” factor in past productions, though it works quite well. Fight and dance scenes are choreographed nicely, making it almost as much of a physical production as it is verbal.
I believe I have said this every year that I have reviewed FST’s summer production (going back to the first one on the banks of the Chena River in downtown Fairbanks), but a big part of what makes these shows so enjoyable is the outdoors location. The show carries its own weight, but sitting outside, amidst the woods of the UAF campus and the sounds of birds and squirrels (so tempting to chase them!), it just makes it all that much better – an experience within an experience, and overall, a darn good time.
Scott McCrea is a local writer who has been reviewing theater in Fairbanks for 20 years.