Bringing Shakespeare to Woodburn
A group of 20 young thespians has been working diligently on two Shakespeare plays this year, and the fruits of their labors will be presented in Woodburn this month.
Shakespeare's Greatest Hits, a 19-year theater group practicing under the tutelage of West Linn director Christopher Leebrick, will perform "Julius Caesar" and "Love's Labour's Lost!" at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at Woodburn Fellowship Church of the Nazarene, 3601 Newberg Highway.
Most of the actors are high school-age, home-schooled students, though a few are attending college. Seven of them hail from Woodburn, Gervais, and Mount Angel.
SGH auditions take place early January via monologue performances from the two selected plays. Leebrick casts the plays and rehearsals take place one day a week (Julius Caesar, Mondays; Love's Labour's Lost, Tuesdays), from 3:30 - 8:30 p.m. or later.
The actors are also given a homework that tests their knowledge of the plays.
"The rehearsals have been proceeding smoothly; they're quite rigorous," said group spokeswoman Jo Garcia-Cobb, parent 5-year SGH veteran Anna Maria Cobb, 18.
"Mr. Leebrick has a way of bringing out the best in his students. He's a master teacher and artist, and Shakespeare's Greatest Hits is entertainment par excellence," Garcia-Cobb added.
The families involved with the production chip in during and in between rehearsals, tending to a variety of tasks such as making costumes, preparing meals and publicizing the event. The reward is a unique opportunity, especially appealing to the home-school students.
"Through Shakespeare's Greatest Hits students are able to pursue and increase not just their acting skills, but also their understanding of Shakespeare, how to face the fear of public speaking, and gain a deeper comprehension of complex language," said Meg Stepper.
Stepper, 17, has been a part of SGH for three years and will play Brutus in Julius Caesar.
"I've been able to meet some great friends and we learn from one another," Stepper added. "We learn and critique ourselves and encourage each other by giving suggestions or offering help, and all of this happens in a safe environment."
Leebrick's own theater background stems back to the mid 1970s. Living in Eugene, he took a storytelling class, loved it, and discovered that he was a natural in the field.The class was more than just theory and practice; it actually had gigs.
"There was like 12 of us, and two or three times a school week we would pile into the teacher's van, travel around mostly Lane County ... and we performed at elementary schools and nursing homes and libraries," Leebrick told the West Linn Tidings in 2018.
Leebrick continued his involvement in theater throughout high school then attended theater school in Wisconsin, while also earning some professional acting and storytelling jobs.
After college Leebrick returned to Eugene and started a Shakespeare theater class for ages 12-and-up, which was particularly appealing to homeschooled students. Lord Leebrick Theatre in Eugene began in 1993, then he moved to West Linn 19 years and has offered SGH in Woodburn ever since.
That has been a boon to all who participate.
"In less than three months, Mr. Leebrick not only produces two fantastic plays, but he also inspires within his group of players a renewed love for theater and a deeper appreciation for Shakespeare," said Avila Dauvin., 16, who will play Princess of France in Love's Labour's Lost. "Though this is only my first year in the program, I can already attest to a huge spike of confidence in my acquired acting skills. Be prepared to be thoroughly amazed with this younger generation."
Another first-year student, Ephrem Dauvin, 12, agreed.
"Mr. Leebrick has helped me understand Shakespere a lot more," said Dauvin, who will play Longaville in Love's Labour's Lost. "I think everyone will gain a better understanding of Shakespere when watching the plays."
That seems to be the concensus.
"It's a great experience for us to work together and to witness our children grow in character and in the many life skills learned as they do theater and learn great literature," Garcia-Cobb said. "Besides, Shakespeare is great fun."
What: Julius Caesar & Love's Labour's Lost
When: 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16
Where: Woodburn Fellowship Church of the Nazarene, 3601 Newberg Highway
Cost: $8 in advance; $10 at the door