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Same classic story, different language THEATER: 'Romeo and Juliet' performed in Spanish at school.

Byline: Connie Llanos, Staff Writer

Kieu Nguyen's eyes traced the energetic actors as they glided from one end of the stage to the other inside the Reseda Elementary auditorium.

Watching Shakespeare's classic "Romeo and Juliet" for the first time, Kieu belted out laughs during the 16th century play's comical Mercutio scenes, and gasped when she watched the young lovers fall into eternal sleep.

The experience was made all the more special for the young Vietnamese-American because it was performed for her and her classmates completely in Spanish.

"I only understood some of the words ... the one's I've learned from my friends," Kieu said.

"But it didn't matter because their faces were so good that I could understand the story," Nguyen said.

Thanks to a partnership between the Shakespeare Center Los Angeles and Mexico's University of Guadalajara, thousands of students at five Los Angeles Unified campuses will get a chance to enjoy this one-of-a-kind children's adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet."

Performed by actors from the A La Deriva Teatro group from Mexico, the shows have taken place all week. The Reseda performance - the only one in the San Fernando Valley - was also partially sponsored by LAUSD board member Tamar Galatzan.

"For us this is a great opportunity to not only introduce children to Shakespeare ... but also to elements of Mexican culture through theater," said Fausto Ramirez, A La Deriva's director.

"Like in ancient Greek times, when actors were brought to contentious land and war meetings, through theater we can also bridge the cultural gaps between our communities."

Bringing the play to elementary school children was also part of an effort to bring classic theater to young children who rarely get the chance to experience it.

Ben Donnenberg, artistic director for the Shakespeare Center Los Angeles, said he has worked for the last several years to bring arts to local public schools but traditionally efforts are geared toward high school students.

"This was our effort to reach a section of the community that is underserved," Donnenberg said.

"Arts have been slashed to bare bones ... if arts organizations don't step up we'll have an entire generation of kids who have never been involved with the arts and won't support it later on."

Donnenberg said the theater group plans to bring an all-Spanish "Hamlet" to Los Angeles students next year.



3 photos


(1 -- 3 -- color) At right, Susana Romo and Abelardo Ferre perform a children's adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" at Reseda Elementary School in Reseda on Thursday. The Mexican Shakespeare troupe is in town performing at local schools. At top, student Paola Correa enjoys the performance. Above, members of A La Deriva Teatro perform the children's adaptation of Shakespeare's romance.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 9, 2009
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