Upstart Crows of Santa Fe provides year-round outreach to educators and community groups. Our staff includes Caryl Farkas, Director of the Crows, Ariana Karp, Artistic Director of the International Shakespeare Center, Ambrose Ferber, Cadets de Gascon founder and Fight Director for Upstart Crows and the ISC, Robin Williams, Dramaturg and creator of iReadShakespeare! and visiting artists including actors, directors and staff from the London Academy of Dramatic Art, the Globe Theatre, and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Upstart Crows of Santa Fe in association with the ISC produce the annual Youth Shakespeare Festival, connecting high school students with Shakespearean actors and directors, culminating in a day of performance at the Swan Theater.
Shakespeare galvanized my life, shaped me as an individual, and simultaneously gave me a sense of belonging and community that I didn't have before.
When I was ten, I acquired a copy of Macbeth and tried to stage a production of it with members of my fifth-grade class. This was a bold move for a kid like me—I was quiet and not particularly social. Sadly, no one was terribly excited about the idea, so I retreated back into my social anonymity and read and re-read the play by myself. At ten, I also saw another production of Macbeth, performed (uncut!) by kids aged six to eighteen at the Young Shakespeare Players in Madison, Wisconsin. I was transfixed. At 13, I joined. My first play was an uncut King Henry IV, Part I, and I was playing Prince Hal—what a privilege! What struck me was that even though every participant put in so much individual work on their characters, it was a group effort and undertaking; it was the best manifestation of teamwork that I had ever experienced.
That was it, I was hooked. I did 36 productions with the Young Shakespeare Players over the next six years. It opened me up as a person; I became the one who always participated in class discussions and felt comfortable with being a very geeky individual who was obsessed and entranced by this potent language. I went on to earn my MA in Classical Acting for the Professional Theatre at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and met and trained with a wonderful group of artists there with whom I will work for the rest of my life.
Shakespeare is universal and specific. Different passages inspire and confound, exhilarate and empower. His works don't belong to one group of people, they don’t belong solely to actors or academics, they belong to whoever is speaking those words, they belong to everyone.
I fell in love with Shakespeare while reading scenes with my father as a child, but my high school English class pretty much killed Romeo and Juliet for me. It was when my daughter dived into an uncut Macbeth with a youth Shakespeare group that I was stunned: Those kids, ages 7 to 17, owned the play. They brought so much passion and such a sense of in-the-moment enjoyment to the production that I fell in love with Shakespeare all over again.
With the zeal of a new convert, I started hanging around and volunteering—first doing the usual parent stuff and then taking on outreach and directing. I spent more than a decade working with young Shakespeareans and bringing both Shakespeare and Gilbert & Sullivan to school kids.
When some of the veteran players wanted to start directing their own productions of Shakespeare, I founded Upstart Crow Productions. Then two other youth Shakespeare dads and I founded Fermat’s Last Theater to showcase the work of some of the graduates of the program. Moving to Santa Fe in 2014, starting a local Upstart Crows was a natural next step for us.
Helping the International Shakespeare Center get our youth program off and running brings together everything I’ve learned about doing Shakespeare with young people. This festival is going to be an inspiration!
Upstart Crows of Santa Fe is a theater company for young people, ages 10 to 18, with a focus on understanding and performing the works of Shakespeare. Young actors experience the plays first-hand, exploring Shakespeare’s language and meaning with the help of experienced directors. There are no auditions—all who wish to participate will receive substantial roles. Each production has two casts so that actors may take part in every aspect of the production, performing as well helping backstage. No prior theater experience is necessary. The company believes that great performances evolve from understanding the texts and collaborating on the productions.The Crows perform three plays a year, with productions in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. They have an extensive outreach program and host workshops with professional Shakespearean actors, directors and scholars.
The ISC cultivates an understanding and love of Shakespeare by partnering with international, national, and local organizations. Our collaboration with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), the oldest acting conservatory in England, has brought world-class teaching artists to Santa Fe. The Ducdame Ensemble, an award-winning NYC acting company founded by graduates of LAMDA’s “Masters in Classical Acting for the Professional Theater” serves as a repertory company for ISC, providing performance, educational outreach, and film work. Community lectures by our founders rouse interest in the stories behind the plays, the author, and those who read and perform them. Our Associate Artistic Directors are committed to educational outreach through a partnership with the Upstart Crows of Santa Fe, workshops for schools, and this annual festival.