About a year ago, the San Jose Youth Shakespeare board met and agreed to establish an Education Fund that we could use to bring in visiting professionals to work with our young company. At the time, we did not anticipate how quickly this idea would come to fruition.
Scott Handy's Visit to San Jose in April 2012
Scott Handy is a professional actor known for a long stage, TV, and movie career that includes many seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Most recently, he appeared as Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida, as Antonio in The Merchant of Venice (alongside Patrick Stewart as Shylock), and as Ross in Macbeth. We asked Mr. Handy if he could possibly visit us and help us with one of our future productions. The result was a wonderful experience; Scott spent two weekends in San Jose in May of 2012, working not only with our Twelfth Night cast but also with about 20 other members of our company who were not in this particular show.
Scott's influence on our organization was deeply felt from the first day. Everyone was impressed with his skill and insight as an actor and director—especially the parents of the cast members, many of whom thoroughly enjoyed watching him work with the kids on the interpretation and delivery of Shakespeare's verse. In fact, in Mr. Handy we have found a kindred spirit and a good soul who sincerely understands and appreciates what we are trying to do. He commented many times during his stay on how we have created not just a theatre company but a culture and a community around Shakespeare that he has rarely seen before in his professional career. It was an inspiring and exhilarating couple of weeks leading up to the show, and we think a little bit of Mr. Handy's brilliance shone through in the performances. We look forward to inviting him back again sometime soon.
Visit by Julie Eccles in October 2012
Julie Eccles, an Associate Artist at California Shakespeare Theatre in Orinda, recently spent an evening with us. Julie was appearing as Gertrude in Hamlet this summer, so we invited her to meet us for a couple of hours on one of her nights off. About 30 kids and their parents listened to Julie recount some of the highlights of her career on stage and screen. Julie and Bob Rumsby met at UC Davis in 1982 and appeared in several student productions together, including Romeo and Juliet, The Cherry Orchard, and The Beaux Stratagem. Julie went on to study at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and spent some time in London before moving back to the Bay Area. During a long career with northern California theatre companies, she has played leading roles in plays by Shakespeare, Shaw, and Noel Coward. In addition to her stage experience, Julie mentioned a televised production of Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude, in which she appeared with Kenneth Branagh, and an audition for Steven Spielberg that led to a small role alongside Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
During the second part of the evening, Julie watched some of our group reprise scenes, speeches, and songs from recent productions of Twelfth Night and Macbeth, as well as a rehearsal of the Marley and Scrooge scene from the upcoming production of A Christmas Carol. Julie herself treated us to a beautiful rendition of Gertrude's speech from Hamlet describing the drowning of Ophelia. A few days after the meeting, nine of us drove up to Orinda to watch a full performance of Hamlet, and we all agreed that it was a fantastic production and well worth the visit. We look forward to the possibility of working with Julie again next summer and returning to Orinda to see more shows at California Shakespeare Theatre.