By Elisa Richardson, Knightsbridge Member
On February 6, 2011, the Knightsbridge Theatre and Inside-Out Community Arts joined forces to provide at-risk youth an opportunity to explore the Elizabethan period as they experienced an interactive performance of Twelfth Night. Inside-Out Community Arts works with diverse at-risk and underserved Los Angeles middle-school and high school youth. They strive to bridge cultural, geographic, socioeconomic and differently-abled boundaries to support youth in creating and presenting topical theater, through visual arts, performing arts, and media workshops. Their goal is to empower youth with the tools, confidence and inspiration to make a positive difference in their communities and the world… from the inside out. As part of the Inside-Out curriculum, students are provided an opportunity to see a professional theatrical production. This allows them to learn from their theatrical experience as well as assist in the creation of their own original plays. These original plays are often on topics that are of high importance to them. Past play topics have included: rape, peer pressure, drug addiction, gangs, tagging, budget cuts, immigration and teen pregnancy. This year, it appeared as if the trip to see a professional theatrical production was to be cancelled due to budget cuts. However, The Knightsbridge Theatre came to the rescue and provided 30 free tickets to Inside-Out. But they still needed transportation. Since Inside-Out is located in Venice and the theatre was in Silver Lake, it seemed as if the trip would not be possible. Just when the trip was going to be cancelled, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s office provided the students with a free bus.
When the kids arrived at the theatre, they were very excited. Their wonderful teaching artists provided them with a synopsis of the play and a few key terms to help them bridge the Shakespearian gap. Even before they were seated, the students were quickly brought up on stage to dance and sing with the cast. Since the show’s concept was to break the fourth wall by relating to the audience as invited party guests, the kids were immediately delighted to find that they too were part of the show. According to the cast of Twelfth Night, the students were one of the best audiences of the entire run! They laughed and sighed as they were completely involved in the story taking place on stage. Many students commented on how well they understood the story, even though they were watching a Shakespearian play. They left the theatre speaking in Elizabethan accents and extremely excited to tell their friends and families about their experiences. They walked away from Twelfth Night with some new vocabulary to discuss things like character work, as well as finding the courage to perform themselves. In addition, they left with a sense of the Elizabethan period and a further interest to study Shakespeare and literature.
This experience would not have happened if it was not for this partnership among community based organizations. Many thanks are due to Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s office and to Inside-Out Community Arts for taking care of our youth and providing them with an opportunity to learn, grow and change, even in these difficult times.