By Teresa Jansen, Riverside folk musician and actress
Shakespeare-meets-Star Wars scenes were performed by apprentices of the Riverside Center for Education’s tutorial program on three nights in November.
Maysake Peabody Estate, an old mansion in Oak Brook, IL, now owned by Dupage County Forest Preserve, served as the theater on November 10 and 14, and The Church of the Resurrection, an Anglican church in Wheaton, IL, was the venue on November 1.
Each night of what Riverside called “Evening Theater” was made up of three skits: Eight to nine year-olds performed “The Tempest;” 10-11 year-olds performed “Hamlet;” and 12-14 year-olds performed Julius Caesar. Characters, including Jedi, droids, robots, and aliens, originated from the Star Wars movies.
Eleven-year-old Dominic Taglia, who played Jedi Hamlet, said it was suspenseful before they got their parts and he had a little competition with a fellow apprentice [student]. He also said he likes the works of Shakespeare and enjoyed playing the lead role.
“The first time I was acting I was nervous, but I’ve gotten over it,” Taglia said.
About 21 boys performed each night and their families were invited to come and watch. Jacqueline Pesek, mother of one of the apprentices, was watching her son perform for the first time. She said it was exciting to watch him and she loves having him in the Riverside Tutorial.
“I like him being with boys, and doing boy things, and doing creative stuff that I’m not good at doing at home,” Pesek said.
In past years the groups performed their skits on the same night. Liam Mitchell, a Riverside tutor, said it had gotten too big and had become a really long night. The Riverside Tutors [teachers] decided to have each group perform on a different night. Mitchell said he was happy with how it turned out.
“It was fun watching them play Shakespeare and also seeing Star Wars. [They’re] different kind of worlds [you] don’t often see together,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell became a tutor about a year ago. He said what he likes most is passing on the joy of creating and the things he enjoyed as a boy.
Part of Riverside’s mission is to help boys become men of character. In addition to family programs like Evening Theater, there are co-ed theatrical productions, music performances, camping trips and other events. Colette McCormick, sister of one of the apprentices, said she really likes seeing her brothers’ real talents come out. She also said her favorite thing in Riverside is when people get together to play music.
“Everyone plays, everyone is singing, everyone’s in it together,” McCormick said.