Huge Strides for ShakesAlive!

Arts Education and Outreach programs bring our ensemble members into the classroom to make Shakespearean text accessible, fun and relevant to students’ lives. Through ShakesAlive!, we work with educators to develop culturally specific programs that move from Euro-centric to multi-centric and we give Los Angeles area students the opportunity to revel in both familiar and undiscovered classic gems of all cultures.

Returning to William Tell Aggeler Opportunity School this Winter for Project 29: partnering at-risk youth with Shakespeare’s at-risk characters.  Also returning to Cleveland HS in the spring!

Antaeus was recently granted a new way for schools to find us — a listing on the LA County Arts For All Website – these listings were VERY competitive and we are now part of Los Angeles County’s first interactive website that supports the arts education needs of educators, community stakeholders and policy makers by providing centralized access to the tools and information necessary to achieve sequential K-12 arts education.
Our Arts Ed Department also now partners with Center Theatre Group on their Annenberg Middle School Program. This is a new pilot, a 3-year action research program that will lead students through a playwriting residency with professional readings by actors from local theatre companies, mirroring the actual playwriting process. The goal is to improve and inspire students’ language and creative thinking skills, leading to student achievement in Language Arts.
As part of our planned expansion in 2010, we held the first of a series of Teaching Artist Training Workshops last October. See a snippet here!
Stay tuned ~ our Shakespeare Monologue Competition also returns in 2010!

Beneath the Surface of Russian Irish Alchemy

I love Antaeus readings. I love being in them, I love attending and listening to them. I recently participated in the “down & dirty” reading of Fathers and Sons by Brian Friel, initiated by Michael Murray.

It was really FUN–and this is always a good sign. For me, if I’m having fun, chances are I’m relaxing slightly from the neurotic precipice off which I am all too capable of dangling, and from which I examine every acting choice I make, from the creative to the business to the wardrobe, find nothing good to say about any of it, and spend the rest of the day rehashing how it all could have gone if I had said This instead of That. Familiar to any of you?

So much for being present, being open, being spontaneous –which I hear are good states to inhabit as actors. This was fun, so I think there was some real creativity and not too much self-abasement happening all around the table…(plus the fact that my character Anna falls in love with Bazarov, played by the dashing and handsome John Sloan, so this was going to be OK for me no matter what).

The play is based on the Turgenev novel (that famous one that’s been on my list of should-reads since high school), but from what I hear there are differences—some relationships emphasized more, others less or not at all….Michael says about the two pieces “These writers share the same sensibility–a sense of family, of nature, of the mix-up of comedy and tragedy”. The play was funny on paper; it was funnier when read aloud. In fact Michael was laughing through 90% of Arye Gross‘s lines.

Arye Gross, Antaeus Company Member

Much of the humor comes from people taking themselves extremely seriously, which should be a reminder to all of us to lighten up a bit in life because the universe as our audience is probably laughing its ass off. It’s a Russian story adapted by an Irishman. One of the things we discussed after the reading is that Friel maintained a sense of his Irish identity inside of this story–certain words and rhythms he uses are distinctly Irish. I like that—reminds me that one’s essence is always a part of what one does. Rather than pretending he was Russian and omitting everything about him that is Irish, Friel leaves it in, and it works.

I feel as actors when an audition comes along that seems very far from who we are it can be easy to think I should take the Me out of it because this character is Other, and forget that it’s exactly that Me essence that is so important and wonderful to bring everywhere. Trying to hide it is not only futile but detrimental—hiding what’s deepest and most true seems the antithesis of art, right? So Friel finds the alchemy between Turgenev’s Russian and his Irish, the commonality in their souls. I will do that when I’m cast in the 10th Lara Croft movie because Angie is on baby #11.

So back to the reading—-there is so much subtext in Russian literature and no, not every piece of it came out, but what was thrilling was to sense how much lies beneath the surface and how satisfying it would be to go hunting for it. That’s another great thing about these gatherings—we get excited as a group to get behind something. We sense its potential. Or collectively we feel it isn’t for us. We get enough alone time as artists. This ensemble participation is good for the soul and good for the spirit of the company. Those of us there left wanting more.

Melanie Lora & Richard Miro in Zastrozzi,a reading at Antaeus

Melanie Lora is an A2 member who last performed with Antaeus in American Tales. Now that the biggest production of her life so far, getting married, has opened and is running with rave reviews for 2 months now, she is ready to get back onstage.

Why is Arts Education important to me?

Brett Colbeth, A2 member & volunteer for Shakes Alive!, Antaeus's Shakespeare in the Schools Program

Brett Colbeth, A2 member & volunteer for Shakes Alive!, Antaeus's Shakespeare in the Schools Program

Why is Arts Education Important to me?

By Brett Colbeth, member of A2 & Antaeus Shakes Alive! Volunteer

You ask that question to any artist and they will probably chuckle like I did.  To me, it’s like asking, “Why is breathing important to me?”  I can only speak from my own experience and that’s exactly what I hope to achieve in this, my very first blog post.

If I weren’t fortunate enough to have had arts education in my life I would have turned out to be a degenerate… seriously!  I came close a few times in life.  Since as far back as I can remember, the arts have always acted as a productive and healthy outlet for me.  As a child, I would sketch and paint in order to quiet my mind and make sense of what I was feeling.  I still do.  Ms. Hemmings, my elementary school art teacher, taught me that whatever I created was beautiful because it came from my own personal truth.  She praised my version of “American Gothic” a la “Ren and Stimpy.”  I won my school district’s art award and a lot of self-esteem. Thanks Ms. Hemmings.  Mr. Provost, my fourth grade cello teacher, not only taught me “Ode to Joy” but how to handle and care for something with love and grace.  Thanks Mr. Provost!  Bruce Altice, my guitar teacher, taught me how to wail on the guitar and not on others.  Mr. Wahl, my senior year English teacher opened my eyes and soul to Shakespeare and poetry!

These are just a few of the arts educators that played a major role in putting the arts into my life.  I would like to conclude with recognizing my mother and father who nurtured my love for the arts at an early age and though not “artists” in the purist sense of the word are two of the most creative and original people I know.  They taught me to look at things subjectively, empathize with others and seek out the beauty in life, my brother man, and myself.  And most importantly, never settle for anything less than the truth! So to conclude, why is arts education important to me?  If I didn’t have sketching and painting as a means to quiet my mind and focus my energy I would have drugs and alcohol.  If Ms. Hemmings never told me about my own personal truth I would have looked for it in another person, place or thing.  If Mr. Provost never taught me how to hold and care for a cello I would have a difficult time holding and caring for anyone and anything I had the chance of laying my hands on.  If Bruce Altice never taught me how to wail on the guitar at that very moment in my life, I would have been kicked out of school and thrown in juvenile hall for violent delinquent behavior. And If Mr. Wahl, never opened my eyes and soul to Shakespeare and poetry I would struggle even more than I do today with “finding the words to say.”  And that’s exactly where I will end it.  Do the world a service and create some art today!

Brett Colbeth

“The arts provide a more comprehensive and insightful education because they invite students to explore the emotional, intuitive, and irrational aspects of life that science is hard pressed to explain. “

-Charles Fowler

The Antaeus Company

Artists-in-Residence Program



Shakes Alive! Is the education outreach program run by the nationally-renowned Antaeus Theatre Company.  Dedicated classical theater actors, many of whom are recognizable from TV and film as well, encourage students in non-theater classes to dive into Shakespeare and other classic plays.  Students discover how actors breathe life into these texts, and then they do it themselves.  By analyzing rich, dense language, absorbing its meaning and beauty, and then performing it with energy and emotional truth, students gain confidence — and a deep appreciation for some of humanity’s greatest works of art.


Our Lead Teacher works closely with your teachers to choose a text to bring to life in each class.   Perhaps in an English class students are studying THE TEMPEST, THE CRUCIBLE, or ROMEO AND JULIET.  In a science class, we can introduce a play to like the Pulitzer Prize-winning COPENHAGEN, which explores the concept of objectivity both in science and in our moral lives.

Each week one or two professional, successful actors visit to share their process in mining and examining a role.  Students participate in acting games, improvisation, and “direct” the actors as they make choices about their performances.  In so doing, students learn that they have power both as artists and readers, and that classic plays are dynamically relevant and exciting.

For more information, please email

Antaeus at Cleveland High School: King Lear