Center Valley, PA — Shakespeare’s masterpiece and tragedy, Hamlet, travels to schools throughout the state in Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s 17th annual WillPower Tour through November 18.
For the ninth year, PSF was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which has helped extend the WillPower tour to serve 40 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in recent years. PSF’s WillPower program is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment of the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.
From Easton in the east to Warren in the west, the tour will be performed at 28 PA schools (plus three schools in New Jersey). An additional 7 schools will attend performances at DeSales University (DSU). The tour is completely sold out, though some seats are available at the DSU performance on Oct. 14th.
For the fourth year, the tour will visit Reading School District’s senior and intermediate high schools, as well as a third visit to the middle school.
“We know when students experience a live performance of a Shakespeare play like Hamlet, it can be transformative,” says Patrick Mulcahy, producing artistic director.
“Students experiencing the WillPower tour have written responses that range from enlightenment and inspiration to life-changing perspectives and even hope that had previously eluded them. Which is consistent with our understanding that the arts are not optional. ”
Research confirms that viewing high-quality theatre productions leads to enhanced understanding and knowledge base, increased vocabulary, greater tolerance, and improved ability to read the emotions and take the perspective of others.
The centerpiece of PSF’s educational programming, the WillPower Tour has been performed at 170+ schools, and for 160,000+ students since its inception in 2000. The tour meets academic standards, and includes an 80-minute production with set and costumes, trained actor-teachers, workshops, a post-show discussion, and a classroom study guide.
Hamlet is directed by Gina Lamparella, whose Broadway acting credits include The Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof, Les Misérables among eight total productions on Broadway. Fight choreography is by the world-renowned Rick Sordelet, fight director for 70+ Broadway shows including all of Disney’s productions on Broadway.
The design team includes veterans of New York and Philadelphia theatres who have all won Barrymore awards for their work: Scenic design is by David P. Gordon; costumes by Janus Stefanowicz, and sound by Liz Filios.
This year’s tour is being performed at schools in 11 counties in Pennsylvania, including Berks, Bucks, Delaware, Lehigh, and Northampton, three counties in New Jersey, Mercer, Monroe, and Somerset.
WillPower is fully titled The Linny Fowler WillPower Tour in honor of an endowment gift by its namesake, Marlene “Linny” Fowler, who believed passionately in the power of theatre and education.
The National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest presents Shakespeare in American Communities. Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is one of 40 professional theater companies selected to participate in bringing the finest productions of Shakespeare to middle- and high-school students in communities across the United States. This is the 14th year of this national program, the largest tour of Shakespeare in American history.
Gina Lamparella (Director) directed WillPower tours of Macbeth (2013) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2012),PSF’s summer production of Beauty and the Beast last year. Other PSF: associate director of The Taming of the Shrew (2016), assistant director of Hamlet (2011) and played Thaisa in Pericles (2015) and Miranda in The Tempest (1999). As an actor, she appeared on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera, A Little Night Music, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy, Jane Eyre and Les Misérables.
Rick Sordelet (Fight Director) and his son Christian are the creators of Sordelet INK, a combat company with 30+ years of action movement experience to the entertainment community. Broadway: 70 Broadway shows including The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Waiting for Godot and No Man’s Land. International: 54 First Class productions worldwide: Tarzan, Aida, and Ben Hur Live in Rome and European Tour, Opera: Cyrano (starring Placido Domingo) at the MET, The Royal Opera House and La Scalla. Don Carlo at the MET, Cold Mountain, Don Giovanni, Romeo and Juliette and La Funciulla del West for Santa Fe Opera. Film: The Game Plan, Dan in Real Life. Brave New Jersey TV: Stunt Coordinator for Guiding Light for 12 years. One Life to Live, Kevin Can Wait. Instructor: Yale School of Drama, CUNY Harlem, HB Studio.
David P. Gordon (Set Design)
PSF: Oklahoma!, The Taming of the Shrew, Blithe Spirit. New York: Public Theater, TFANA, CSC, EST, Women’s Project, Pearl. Regional: Wilma, Walnut St., PTC, PLTC, Hartford Stage, Old Globe, Long Wharf, Williamstown, Goodspeed, Huntington, McCarter, Westport, Williamstown, Chicago Shakespeare, Kennedy Center. Opera: L.A. Opera, Lincoln Center, Juilliard, Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Berkshire Opera, Sarasota Opera. Awards: Five Barrymore Awards, Elliot Norton Award, and CT Critics Circle, Carbonel and IRNE nominations. Professor of Set Design at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Janus Stefanowicz (Costume Designer)
Has designed for numerous theatre companies in NYC and Philadelphia. Janus is the resident Costume Designer and shop manager for Villanova University’s Theatre Department, where she is an adjunct professor. Since 1996, she has been nominated for 16 Barrymore Awards (Philadelphia) and has won three for: Intimate Apparel at Philadelphia Theatre Company (2006) and for Big Love (2003) and On the Razzle (1998), both at the Wilma Theater.
Liz Filios (Sound Designer)
A Philadelphia-based performer, composer and sound designer. Her work has brought her to South Africa, Indonesia, British Colombia and across Europe. Recent credits include: The Tempest (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre/South Coast Rep), As You Like It (Lantern Theater), and Passion (Arden Theatre). Liz is an Independence Foundation Fellow, a Barrymore Award winner, and a recipient of the F. Otto Haas Award for Emerging Theatre Artist.
|Mitchell Grant (Rosencrantz/Marcellus/Player King/Priest) was recently seen as Bertram in All’s Well That Ends Well and Pompey in Antony and Cleopatra with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival. He received his Masters degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, whose program included a month-long residency at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Mitchell is extremely pleased to be joining Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s WillPower Tour 2016.|
|Ryan Hagan (Horatio) was a member of PSF’s Young Company for the past two summers, where his credits include Dumaine in Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Lucius/Strato in Julius Caesar, and the ensemble in Pericles. Ryan received a BA in Theatre with a concentration in Acting/Directing from DeSales University in May where he performed in Sleeping Beauty, Merry Christmas, George Bailey, and Me and My Girl, among others.|
|Laura Iris Hill (Polonius/Gravedigger) PSF WillPower Tours: Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing. Trained at BAPA in Australia. Other Shakespeare credits include roles in Richard III, Julius Caesar, Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Wives of Windsor, another Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet and a Macbeth performed in Tokyo. New York theatre includes Cupid and Psyche (Turn to Flesh), Cosi and Speaking in Tongues (Australian Made Entertainment). Laura was also a recurring guest on the long-running Aussie TV show Neighbours.|
|Javon Johnson (King Claudius/Ghost) recently toured with Shakespeare Live! 2016 with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummers Night Dream. Some of his previous main stage credits include Coriolanus and The Merry Wives of Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Florida MFA program. Some of his favorite productions include Clybourne Park, Ajax in Iraq, and Tribes.|
|Mitchel Kawash (Laertes/Lucianus) Regional: The Taming of the Shrew (Lucentio, Valley Shakespeare); Julius Caesar, dir. Alvin Epstein (Octavius, Elm Shakespeare); Pericles (Valley Shakespeare). New York: Punk Grandpa (FRIGID New York). London: Absent (dir. Tristan Sharps, dreamthinkspeak). Film: Abby Chromatic (Abbott, Met Film School). A New York-based actor, Mitchel holds a B.A. in Theater Studies from Yale University and completed his graduated acting training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
|Tori Lewis (Ophelia) PSF: Les Misérables, Pericles, and Rapunzel. She is a recent graduate of DeSales University’s theatre program.|
|Brandon Meeks (Hamlet) Fourth WillPower Tour: Macbeth (Macbeth), Romeo and Juliet (Romeo), The Tempest (Ferdinand), Hamlet (Hamlet), The Comedy of Errors (Solinus). PSF Main Stage: The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Ephesus). Film and television: Olives (2013). Other credits: A Christmas Carol (Kane Memorial Chapel), The Winter’s Tale (Roxy Regional Theatre), Urinetown: The Musical (University of Louisville).|
|Antoinette Robinson (Gertrude) Recent credits include: Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival: As You Like It, Our Town. New York Classical Theater: As You Like It; Queens Company: Sir Patient Fancy, Taming of the Shrew, Winter’s Tale. Hyde Park Theater: The M…with the Hat, Mr. Marmalade, Spirits to Enforce; Seattle Children’s Theater: Edge of Peace; Guthrie Theater: Time Sensitive. MFA University of Texas at Austin.|
|Emily Song Tyler (Guildenstern/Bernardo/Player Queen/Osric) Regional: A Christmas Carol (Geva Theatre Center). National Tours: Miss Nelson is Missing (TheatreWorks USA/Two Beans Productions). New York: A Chorus Line (Connie), West Side Story (Maria), Titus Andronicus (Lavinia). Film/Television: Healthy You (WXXI), The Unplanned Lesson, Loud and Clear. AMDA NY graduate.|
|Emily J. Baver (Production Stage Manager) is recent theatre graduate of DeSales University with a concentration in Stage Management. PSF credits include stage management positions for The Little Mermaid, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Macbeth, Lend Me a Tenor, and S4K. DeSales management credits include; Me and My Girl, Sleeping Beauty, George Bailey, Harvey and various dance concerts.|
Media Representatives: For more information, photos and/or interview opportunities, please contact Lisa Higgins or Jill Arington at 610.282.9455 Lisa.Higgins@pashakespeare.org or Jill.Arington@pashakespeare.org