NEA Arts Magazine

Shakespeare Comes to LA

ShakespeareLA-kids.jpg

Students performing: one in front in a chair, two young girls at microphones behind him, and three musicians behind them

Hobart Shakespeareans perform at the Mark Taper Forum. Photo: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

The National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Shakespeare Festival/LA (SFLA), co-sponsored Shakespeare Comes to LA to bring professional productions and educational activities to stages and schools throughout Los Angeles. This summer festival was an extension of the NEA’s nationally acclaimed Shakespeare in American Communities initiative.

On May 17th at LA’s Mark Taper Forum, to mark the launch of the festival, students and other special guests gathered to honor the greatest playwright in the English language. The event included the debut of a short film produced especially for the NEA, "Why Shakespeare?" Directed by Larry Bridges, it featured Tom Hanks, Martin Sheen, Michael York, and Christina Applegate, among others, reminiscing about their theater experiences and love of Shakespeare.

NEA Chairman and Gordon Davidson

NEA Chairman Dana Gioia presents a Chairman's Medal to Gordon Davidson, Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum. Photo: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

The Hobart Shakespeareans, a remarkable troupe of students from the local Hobart Elementary School, and Los Angeles-based Circle X Theatre Company performed at the event.

"We're here today to celebrate bringing the magic of Shakespeare to those who have not yet experienced the wonder and excitement of seeing a live, professional production of Shakespeare," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. "Los Angeles is my hometown, and I am delighted that the Arts Endowment is able to partner with Shakespeare Festival/LA to bring these productions to thousands of students."

Ben Donenberg, producing artistic director for SFLA, commented, "I'm thrilled about the partnership with the Arts Endowment and fascinated by the many different ways the various theater companies approach and interpret Shakespeare. It’s a real pleasure to be able to offer these local and national companies free-of-charge so that they are accessible to absolutely everyone."