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Allow Puck to Introduce Kids to Will


Shakespeare's blithe forest frolic, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," is a great way to introduce children to a classic theater work, and the respected Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company's new adaptation is especially family friendly, according to artistic director Lisa Wolpe.

"I think it's Shakespeare's most accessible play," Wolpe said, "and in our contemporary setting, it's even more accessible." The play opens April 16 for a month at the Gascon Center Theatre in the Helms Bakery Arts Complex in Culver City.

In this updated, urban adaptation of a tale about meddling fairies and tangled romance, Fairy King Oberon, Fairy Queen Titania, mischievous sprite Puck, a troupe of buffoonish thespians and comically bewitched lovers exist in a "modern, New York dreamscape" under neon city lights.

"We've got some great diva singers in the cast" to sing gospel and rhythm and blues, Wolpe said. "The clothing is contemporary and the dance style is a kind of hip-hop. We haven't changed the language, except in certain moments. For instance, instead of referring to Athens, it's Manhattan. Instead of happening in the wood, it happens in the 'hood." Wolpe, a former New York resident, said she took her inspiration from memories of the city's vivid night life.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 15, 1998 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong name--Nancy Jo Mazzie should have been credited for the picture of the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which appeared in Monday's Calendar.

"At 3 o'clock in the morning, it was very magical, with the neons lit and the streets alive with characters. I thought, let's have the fairies emerge out of the night and have the magic become a city magic, expressed through music and dance."

Wolpe and her 6-year-old company have won critical acclaim for productions of "Romeo and Juliet," "Richard III," "Measure for Measure" and other Shakespeare classics. "A Midsummer Night's Dream," however, is her favorite, she said.

"The challenge is that it's done so often. But that also frees me to take some liberties with it. I didn't feel I had to do it with Arthur Rackham fairies, real flowers on the stage, and all that. So, it's a bit of a concept piece, but it's still filled with the kinds of love and magic and laughter that are essential to the play."

The casting of the fairies is another innovation. Wolpe chose a double cast of more than 20 girls, ages 5 to 15, all members of the locally based Dance for Self-Esteem Ensemble, for the fairy roles.

According to the company's artistic director, Syni Patterson, it's a dream come true for the ethnically mixed young dancers, who auditioned for the roles.

"They're singing, dancing, acting--it's just an incredible opportunity they have to grow in grace and dignity, and all the things it means to be a young woman," said Patterson, whose mission is to instill in students a passion for positive thinking along with a passion for dance.

Doing the play feeds heavily into that goal, Patterson noted. "The girls get to see up-close professional work--women directing, acting, building the set. And they have the chance to work with all these gifted and talented women, who are so generous and kind to them."

"It's a celebration of women and girls working together on stage," Wolpe said, "and it's a real accomplishment for our company."

(The show is sold out the week of Shakespeare's birthday--April 23. A $5,000 grant from Arco is making it possible for 400 school children from underserved communities to see the play that week.)

* "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Gascon Center Theatre, Helms Bakery Arts Complex, 8737 Washington Blvd., Culver City, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. April 16 through May 17. $15. (310) 289-2111.

Family Fun: Make a kite, a doll, a carp streamer; get a few sushi pointers; watch a puppet show, Japanese folk dancing and taiko drumming--the whole family is invited to "Japanese Children's Day" at the Pacific Asia Museum. And it's free.

The event also includes storytelling, a traditional Japanese doll display and the opportunity to sample Japanese foods.

* "Japanese Children's Day," Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, Saturday, 1 to 4 p.m. Free. (626) 449-2742.

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