(BOSTON) — Huntington Theatre Company and Dorchester’s Codman Academy Charter Public School’s eight-year collaboration, the Huntington-Codman Summer Theatre Institute, will culminate in two public performances of As You Like It this Thursday and Friday, August 1 and 2 at 7pm at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The public is invited to the free performance — no tickets are required.
The four-week program for Codman students exploring the full theatrical process extends lessons from the academic year to the summer and instills the values of individual focus and commitment necessary for success. Equally important, the Institute also provides a safe environment for the participants who come from some of Boston’s most challenging urban neighborhoods, as urban youth violence tends to increase during the summer. A founding partner of Codman Academy Charter Public School, the Huntington collaborates with Codman year-round to create and teach its innovative, interdisciplinary Humanities curriculum.
Co-directors Meg O’Brien and Solange Garcia have set As You Like It, the source of Shakespeare’s famous observation “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” in the 1950s and are encouraging their student-actors to draw inspiration from iconic African American civil rights activists, religious leaders, and musicians when developing their characterizations.
“Self-discovery is a natural part of the high school experience and a central theme in As You Like It,” says As You Like It co-director Meg O’Brien. “Some members of this year’s incredibly talented group of students have just completed their high school journey and are off to college in the fall. Others have just completed their first year at Codman, and are therefore earlier in the process of self-discovery. What unites the company is that each of these students has chosen to use theatre as a tool of expression in his or her life.”
“I come back year after year because acting is what I want to do in life,” says student-actor Brandon Niles (Duke Senior/Duke Frederick) who performs in his third Summer Institute production. “The Huntington is a home for me — Meg [O’Brien] is like a mother to me, and everyone here is really friendly and supportive. I’m never mad when I’m there. If I’m mad about something that happened outside or if I’m having a bad day, it all goes away when I come here.”
“There is nowhere else that I can be paid to be an actor,” says Shawntell Usher-Thames (Phebe), who performs in her fourth Summer Institute production. “I have grown so close to people here. Meg [O’Brien] knows me as a person, as a student, and as an actor. It’s hard to find that in other places. I can’t say that I know myself completely yet, but theatre has helped me learn to love myself and acting teaches me who I am. I don’t know what I would have done without theatre throughout high school. It would have been even tougher than it was.”
The cast includes:
Lord of Duke Frederick / Jaques de Boys
Lord of Duke Senior / Forester
LeBeau / William
Dennis / Corin
Amiens / Hymen
Duke Frederick / Duke Senior
Sir Oliver Martext
Lord of Duke Frederick / Sir Oliver Martext
Beginning its thirteenth year, the Huntington’s partnership with Codman Academy is the showcase of the Huntington’s acclaimed and wide-reaching youth, education, and community initiatives. The co-created Humanities program has been recognized both locally and nationally as a model for improving urban students’ reading, speaking, writing, and presentation skills. The partnership was awarded the Commonwealth Award, the state’s highest award in arts and culture given by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Codman Academy is the only public school to receive this recognition.
Each year, Codman students study the texts in the classroom and attend productions at the theatre of plays being produced by the Huntington. In addition, ninth and tenth graders work with Huntington staff and teaching artists two days each month to immerse themselves in the workings of a professional theatre.
The partnership engages and inspires students from neighborhoods often excluded from Boston’s dynamic cultural life and enables them to develop both an understanding of and appreciation for the theatre by studying and attending Huntington performances, observing behind-the-scenes activities of the theatre, and participating in hands-on work in the theatre arts. The program leverages this engagement and inspiration to improve performance in academic areas, particularly literacy, and in the development of social capital by building core skills such as teamwork and priority-setting.
Thanks in part to the programs designed and administered by the Huntington, 99% of Codman Academy’s tenth graders pass the English Language Arts portion of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exam, a requirement for graduation. Since the first graduating class, 100% of Codman Academy students have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities.
The Huntington Theatre Company’s Department of Education and Community Programs is one of the most extensive, impacting, and admired theatre education departments in the country. Over the past 31 years, its nationally recognized programs have served more than 300,000.
ABOUT THE HUNTINGTON
Recipient of the 2013 Regional Theatre Tony Award, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston’s leading theatre company since its founding in 1982. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current. Led by Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington creates award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington is in residence at Boston University. For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.