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When David Sikking isn't directing 'Shakespeare in Love,' he's teaching students the importance of theatre.

COURTESY PHOTO: DAVID SIKKING - David Sikking graduated from Portland State University with a degree in teaching and theatre. He has been a teacher with the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy for in Beaverton for 20 years.

To David Sikking's English students at the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy in Beaverton, he's the person who comes in everyday to teach them about playwriting and a famous guy named Shakespeare.

But for Sikking, his love for theatre doesn't stop once class is let out for the day. He then heads out to the Lakewood Theatre Company in Lake Oswego to direct his latest play, "Shakespeare in Love."

"(One of) the themes of the play is that arts give us power to transform and our lives," Sikking said. "And so, teaching at an art school, I am able to connect with students who love and are engaged with the arts and intrigued the arts, but (I'm) also trying to help them understand the great power that they have through that field."

The play is a romantic comedy based on the award-winning screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman. It was adapted for the stage by Lee Hall with music by Paddy Cunneen.

The show opens on Nov. 1 and continues through Dec. 8 at the Lakewood Center.

The audience follows a young William Shakespeare at the start of his career, trying to end his writer's block and complete his new comedy "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter." He then finds his muse, Viola de Lesseps, who wants to perform on stage in an era when women are not allowed to.

"In my cast, I've got some theatrical old-timers and I've got some very new and young people and I'm finding that the younger generation at the distance of the story that they're not familiar with," Sikking said. "And so, to be able to share this story with them via people in the cast or people in the community who might come see the play, I just think that's very important."

Originally from the Midwest, Sikking moved to Portland at a young age and attended Clackamas High School, where he fell in love with performing. He then graduated from Portland State University with a degree in teaching and theatre.

But it was where he began his acting career that made all the difference.

"My very first show out of high school was at Lakewood Theatre," Sikking said. "When I was 18, I went in and I did — oh my gosh — was it 'Auntie Mane'? I think was my first one."

Sikking now has over 30 years of experience producing and directing shows in the area, but last year was his first time directing a show for the Lakewood Theater Company.

Steve Knox, the company's executive producer, was happy to invite Sikking to the big stage once again.

"He's just very well respected in the theater community ... both as an actor and (for) doing a lot of work over the years," Knox said.

Lakewood's staff doesn't necessarily look for diverse backgrounds when choosing a director, Knox said. But Sikking's background in education has been a plus for the theater, he acknowledged.

"If you're in a position like that you're working with young actors, you have to explain and enlighten and hopefully stimulate," he said. "Rather than doing something as it's been done before, you see it as what the person brings to the role or to the characters."

COURTESY PHOTO - 'Shakespeare in Love' opening Nov. 1 and running through Dec. 8 at Lakewood Center for the Arts.

Lakewood allows directors to have as much creative freedom as possible, Knox added, as long as they know their audience and have a sense of what will appeal to them.

Along with his work at Lakewood, Sikking said he also wants to help his students realize the importance of expressing themselves and learning through the arts.

"True art has the power to lift us up, to help us, to see into the hearts of our fellow man and to understand and appreciate, the hearts of our fellow man," Sikking said. "And once we can do that, then we can begin to use our art to transform those things and to make. And I don't mean to sound all Hallmark-y, but I truly believe that we can make our — at least — our society, our city, our community richer."

Though Sikking doesn't get much sleep waking up at 4 a.m. every day, whether it be to grade papers or look over rehearsal notes, he plans on working both positions for as long as he can.

"Even though it's a little challenging at times, I think I've at least found for myself a nice balance between these two passions in my life," Sikking said. "As long as I can keep both balls in the air, I don't see why I shouldn't."

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