Miscellaneous Shakespeare Film:
- Shakespeare High (2011) with Kevin Spacey, Richard Dreyfuss, Mare Winningham; directed by Alex Rotaru. This documentary follows several groups of high school drama students as they prepare scenes for a Shakespeare competition. We’re first introduced to a drama class at Los Angeles County High School For The Arts. And we learn a little about the Shakespeare competition, including that current stars were involved in this when they were students – folks like Kevin Spacey, Val Kilmer and Mare Winningham. The students aren’t allowed costumes, props or sets except for four chairs. The second school is PUC Charter School, and the documentary focuses on some of the students there, growing up in and around gangs. At each of the schools, we meet the students, the drama teacher and some of the parents. The differences in the schools are incredible, but the similarities perhaps even more interesting. One of the schools is Notre Dame Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school. (The drama teacher there is a total lunatic. Right away she points out that she’s the only Jewish teacher in the school, and that’s the sanest bit out of her.) At Chatsworth High, Kevin Spacey and Mare Winningham (who both attended the school) visit the drama class, while the students rehearse a scene from Macbeth. The final school we meet is Hesperia High School, in the middle of nowhere. This school has the reputation of being the one to beat. The documentary then follows each of these schools the day of the actual competition. There are fifty-one schools competing, and the scenes come from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Othello. We see quick bits of several of the Round One performances (in small rooms), and of many of the Semi-Finals too. For the finals, we see some of the performances of the schools we’ve been following. And we learn the results. But this documentary isn’t really about who wins. It shows what students could do if the arts were properly funded. And it shows how vibrant are the works of Shakespeare (even though a lot of the students veer from the texts), and how they still speak strongly to young folks.