Shakespeare’s for the young again in Turners

TURNERS FALLS — The people behind the latest theatrical endeavor at the Shea Theater believe it is better for the mind to be dipped in Shakespeare early and often.

“The point is to show young people that classical texts — Shakespeare, in particular — are not above them, that it’s wonderful and fun and approachable, and to expose them to the best our culture has to offer,” said Suzanne Rubinstein, director of Young Shakespeare Players East. Recently of Brattleboro, Vt., the youth theater company now makes its home at the Shea Theater on Avenue A.

Shakespeare’s plays aren’t easy, but the idea is that children and teens are capable of understanding, performing and benefitting from Shakespeare’s work in all its complexity.

Technical director Cameron Cobane said the scripts are never modernized or “kidified.” Instead the productions rely on translations and audio materials meant to help the cast of 7- to 18-year-olds internalize the meaning of their lines, rather than memorizing senseless syllables.

Young Shakespeare Players East is the New England extension of a program begun in 1980 in Wisconsin by psychologist couple Richard and Anne DiPrima, according to the program’s website.

Rubinstein wrote that Young Shakespeare Players East is proud to be the first chapter of the program outside of Madison, Wis., and has been based for the past two years out of the Hooker Dunham Theater and Gallery in Brattleboro.

The program moved to Massachusetts because Pioneer Valley residents were the fastest growing demographic enrolling in the program and because she and her family are moving to Turners Falls, Rubinstein wrote.

The company joins the Shea rent-free to fill a gap in the nonprofit Shea Community Theater Inc.’s mission, board President Michael Glazier said recently, with the youth program providing an educational component.

“Twelfth Night” will be the company’s first production, with rehearsals beginning next month.

The first 14-week session begins Sept. 3, with rehearsals Sundays and Wednesdays.

Tuition is $500, but there are scholarships available, and Rubinstein said the program has never turned a young person away.

Productions will be Dec. 6 and 7, both free, with proceeds from concessions going to fund scholarships.

The program can be found online:

youngshakespeareplayerseast.org,

through a link on the TheShea.org website, and Rubinstein can be reached at 802-258-7922.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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