Takes on Shakes is a bold new video series exploring iconic scenes from Shakespeare. It’s designed to help educators with distance learning. The series challenges assumptions about Shakespearean performance and interpretation. Our diverse team of actors, directors, and Teaching Artists bring their personal perspectives to each episode, and empower kids with the idea that there’s no “right way” to perform or appreciate Shakespeare.
Geared towards grades 4-12, each episode offers fresh, often unexpected ‘takes’ on famous scenes that interrogate complex, thorny, and sometimes controversial topics in Shakespeare’s canon. In between ‘takes’, actors and directors explain how creative decisions can have profound effects on how audiences perceive and interpret the play. Included with each episode are curriculum materials that provide educators with detailed content relating to the themes and language of the featured play, as well as discussion questions and activities to enhance student engagement.
The first episode, directed by Chris Steele, imagines the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet as we assume it should be played, followed by ‘takes’ based on gender norms in the 16th, 19th, and 21st centuries. The second episode, directed by Akaina Ghosh, explores issues of consent and personal agency in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, addressing how directors’ and actors’ choices can affect how we experience the comedy in the play.
For a more in-depth live experience, Takes on Shakes can be paired with content from our other in-class education programs, including Embodying Shakespeare and a variety of Specialty Shakes topics. Pricing is $99 for a single on-demand episode and $149 for two episodes. Families and individuals are eligible for discounted pricing.
Directed by Chris Steele, this episode explores the role of gender in Shakespeare (and Romeo and Juliet specifically) by looking at the casting practices and gender assumptions of the 1590s until the present day. By questioning the heternormativity of 20th versions of the play, often considered “traditional,” our three takes will look at how casting has changed over the centuries and highlight the role of gender-queerness in understanding the play and its language.
Between takes, our multi-gender, multi-racial team of artists will share the reasons behind their directing, acting, and design choices, offer personal stories about their connection to the play, and share their favorite lines from the scene.
The curriculum content will provide topics for discussion and written reflection such as:
Episode Director Chris Steele
Directed by Akaina Ghosh. While A Midsummer Night’s Dream is generally understood to be one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies, it starts as a high-stakes drama about consent in a patriarchal culture. Hermia, a young woman, is not allowed to marry the partner of her choosing, while Queen Hippolyta comes to Athens as the conquered bride of war hero Theseus. Against this backdrop, fairies use magic to make mortals fall in and out of love – mostly for their own amusement.
Our takes on multiple scenes from the play will invite students to consider the role of consent throughout the play. When are the characters able to make their own choices, and when are they coerced by magic or law? What do they think Shakespeare was trying to say about the nature of human relationships and love?
Between takes, our multi-gender, multi-racial team of artists will share the reasons behind their directing, acting, and design choices, offer personal stories about their connection to the play, and share their favorite lines from the scenes.
The curriculum content will provide topics for discussion and written reflection such as:
DIRECTOR / PERFORMER
Akaina (they/them) trained with One Year Lease and New York Stage and Film while attending Vassar College in New York, where they received a BA in Drama as well as a BA in Philosophy. Akaina’s specialties include music composition, devised theater, and ensemble performance. Recent performances with SF Shakes include Silvius in As You Like It and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Akaina is passionate about reconstructing historically significant narratives through a feminist lens and generating new works that center feminine and non-binary voices and perspectives. Follow Akaina at akainaghosh.com.
DIRECTOR / PERFORMER
Chris (they/them) is a nonbinary actor, director, drag artist, and co-artistic director of Poltergeist Theatre Project. They have worked as a playwright, fight choreographer, intimacy choreographer, makeup artist, dialect coach, dance captain, costume construction aid, and lighting designer. They toured with SF Shakes, playing Lady Macbeth/Witch 1 in Macbeth and Polonius/Laertes in Hamlet. Other favorite Shakespeare roles include: Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Titania/Puck in Midsummer of Love, Casca in Caesar Maximus (We Players); Cupid/Caphis in Timon of Athens (Cutting Ball), John Rugby in Twelfth Night (Great River Shakespeare Festival), and Pandarus/Agamemnon/Hecuba in Troilus and Cressida (Poltergeist Theatre Project). Chris studied theatre at Pepperdine University and The University of Oklahoma, and relocated to the Bay Area where they’ve worked with Summer Repertory Theater, Sierra Rep, Cutting Ball, Breadbox Theatre, New Conservatory Theater Center, Playwrights Center SF, Musical Café, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, and We Players.
Bidalia is a native New Yorker and is so excited to be joining the SF Shakespeare family as a performer and teaching artist. She is also a choreographer, movement director, and director around the Bay Area. Bidalia is a graduate of The Guildford School of Acting in England and is an alumnus from The School of American Ballet in NYC. She has performed in the UK, NYC, and SF Bay Area Theatre Companies. Her favorite roles include Camila from In The Heights, (Custom Made Theatre) Marisol in Jose Rivers’ a Marisol (Sanford Meisner Theatre NYC) Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein (CM. NY), and Charity Barnum in Barnum (23E) Bidalia also is a proud co-founder of 23 Elephants Theatre Company with her husband Steven Hess, also an actor/writer. They were awarded The Best Of SF Fringe for their musical Unspeakable Act at The Exit Theatre. See more at www.23elephants.org.
Ron (he/him) is an actor who believes in the power and necessity of great storytelling. He last appeared as Edmund in SF Shakespeare Festival’s virtual production of King Lear.
Danielle (she/her) is a graduate of Scripps College and studied Shakespeare and Musical Theatre while studying abroad in London. Danielle is very excited to be working with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival again after performing in their tour of Macbeth and their Free Shakespeare in the Park production of As You Like It: A New Musical. Danielle hails from Maui, Hawaii where she first fell in love with theater and is thrilled to continue sharing her love of performance.
Charlie (he/him) is a bi-coastal actor and teaching artist who graduated from UC Davis in fall of 2019 with a double B.A. in Theatre & Dance and English. He has worked professional with Bike City Theatre Company; Davis Shakespeare Festival; and the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Favorite recent credit: the NYC Industry Reading of MAXA. Other credits include: Ethan (Fat Kid Rules the World); Skip (Small Steps): Touchstone (As You Like It); Pyp (Westeros Side Story); Pippin (Pippin); and Queen Elizabeth (Richard III). Charlie also completed the 2020 month-long intensive at Shakes and Co. in Lenox Mass., where he trained in Linklater, clown, Alexander, and Shakespeare scene-study with renowned Shakespeare scholar Tina Packer. Charlie is a firm believer that theater can change lives for the better, bridge communities, and heal. His focus is primarily through a queer lens, and one of his main drives is queering the classical canon (especially musical theater and Shakespeare). charlielavaroni.com
Carolina (she/her) is an Actor and Bilingual Teaching Artist focused on theatre that empowers through poetry and movement. She returns to the Bay Area after 7 seasons in residence at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Graduate of Santa Clara University with a BA in Theatre & Performance and of Kent State University with an MFA in Acting. Currently in her 2nd year teaching in-school residency programs for A.C.T in San Francisco, and is excited to be teaching this fall at Studio A.C.T. Most recently she played the role of Sonia Sotomayor in She Persisted, the Musical at Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Beatrice in Shakespeare In Detroit’s Much Ado Para Nada and Darushka in Central Works’ Ward 6.
Joshua (he/him) is excited to be working with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival as a performer and educator. In the Bay Area Joshua has performed with FoolsFURY and Ragged Wing Ensemble. Nationally he has performed with Georgia Shakespeare, Nebraska Repertory Theatre, Center Theatre, Georgia Mountain Theatre, Push-Push Theatre and Film and Georgia Ensemble Theatre. Joshua also works as a director, fight choreographer and educator with Cal Shakes, LEAP, San Francisco Youth Theatre, Berkeley Repertory School of Theatre and Shakespearience. He is an associate member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers and member of the Society of American Fight Directors. https://waterstonejoshua.wixsite.com/director
Ella (she/her) is a San Francisco-based teacher and performer who first came in contact with SF Shakes in Bay Area Shakespeare Camp when she was 6 and fell in love with the Bard’s language. Her acting credits include Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (SF Shakes & Half Moon Bay Shakespeare Co.), Pamela in Head Over Heels (New Conservatory Theatre), La Ronde (Cutting Ball Theater) and Jan in Grease (Berkeley Playhouse). She received a 2019 Theatre Bay Area Award for her performance as Natalie in Next to Normal (Los Altos Stage). Ella is a proud graduate of the Pacific Conservatory for Performing Arts. See more at ellaruthfrancis.com.
PROPS / COSTUMES
Gaby (she/her) is thrilled to be returning to San Francisco Shakespeare Company as a member of the Takes on Shakes team! She started her Bay Area theatre career as a stage management intern for the company’s 2016 run of The Winter’s Tale and since then has joined SF Shakes the past two summers as ASM and wardrobe assistant for As You Like It: A New Musical and as ASM and props coordinator for King Lear. Other highlights of her past work include stage managing Urinetown at Berkeley Playhouse and Downton AirBnB (the 2019 Gala) for Lamplighters.
Christian (he/him) is the founding Artistic Director of Amios in NYC and the Producing Artistic Director of ShotzSF in San Francisco. Directing credits include: Boeing Boeing (coming up at RVP), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Tides), A Message (Arabian Shakespeare Festival), Heroes and Other Strangers (Best of Fringe NYC), Strictly Convenience (Fourfold Productions), Icarus’ Mother (Actors Theatre of San Francisco) and a bunch of Shotz plays. Ensemble creations include: Brundibar (The Actors Center), Aloyisius in New York (Amios), Woyzeck (Wits End). As an Actor he has been seen in The Elephant Man, Romeo & Juliet, Miss Julie, Death of a Salesman, Macbeth, King John, Woyzeck, Richard III, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Trip to Bountiful and dozens more. Mr. Haines holds an MFA from the National Theatre Conservatory.
TECH DIRECTOR / UNIFIED VIRTUAL SPACE / GRAPHIC DESIGN / VIDEO EDITOR
Neal (he/him) joined SF Shakes in 2017 as our first full-time technical director and manages all things tech, including set design, fabrication, paint, transportation, and installation for SF Shakes and several of our partner organizations. He also dabbles in lighting and sound and coordinates the infrastructure of our outdoor shows. Prior to this he spent 4 years in the advertising world as Manager of Art & Technology at Publicis, though the majority of his career has been spent as an independent designer/builder, recklessly pursuing and combining the realms of mobile architecture, pyrotechnics, electric vehicles, lighting and sound design, robotics, and graphic and web design. He holds a B.A. in Design from Stanford University. Recent intelligence suggests that he may currently be developing an autonomous, 50-foot-tall, fire-breathing, disco-dancing likeness of William Shakespeare . . . nealormond.com
Pratiksha Shah is not just a production manager but a true visionary genius behind the scenes. This means balancing a million tasks while staying on top of everything that’s going on – rehearsal schedules, hiring crews and designers, contracts, and payrolls to name a few. Pratiksha graduated from Foothill Theater Conservatory and has been an active part of the theater world for the past 10 years. She fell in love with Shakespeare during school and joined San Francisco Shakespeare Festival at the onset of the pandemic in January 2020. In her short tenure of 3 years with SF Shakes she has supported and mastered: fully virtual productions (King Lear), episodic virtual hybrid productions (Pericles), and in-person productions in three different park locations (Much Ado). In her spare time, she produces shorts, commercials, web series, features and so much more!