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PATCH: PBS Documentary Goes Backstage At Red Bank Shakespeare Production

by Pat McDaniel

RED BANK, NJ — A public television documentary about a teen program at the Two River Theater will take center stage on Wednesday on local NJ PBS stations.

“Here’s The Story – Much Ado” airs from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and gives the teens’ perspective on how the experience of producing and acting in the A Little Shakespeare production of “Much Ado About Nothing” was nothing short of life changing.

It is the premier of the documentary, said Steve Rogers, executive producer, NJ PBS. He followed the teen company and crew as they mounted Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” this past spring. Rakesh Palisetty was the show’s professional director.

“The result is a very special film about theater education and local teens learning more about themselves and their abilities by learning how to portray someone and something other than themselves and life in the 21st century,” Rogers said in a statement about the documentary.

According to the Two River Theater’s website, “Little Shakes,” as the program is dubbed, produces a 75-minute adaptation of a Shakespeare play – directed and designed by theater professionals, and performed and supported backstage by high school students.

Student participants are selected through auditions and interviews, and rehearsals take place over a three-month period.

Performances are open not only to the public but four school-time shows engage students as young as fourth grade, often serving as their introduction to Shakespeare.

Two River’s A Little Shakespeare program is going into its tenth year, said Kate Cordaro, director of education for Two River Theater.

“John Dias and I started this program initially as a way to introduce younger children to Shakespeare, but it’s become so much more than just that (which is huge on its own,) she said.

She said that since 2013, 186 students from an average of 10 different high schools per year have done nine Shakespeare plays to thousands of audience members through the program.

“Through A Little Shakespeare, teens from all over get to meet each other, work on extraordinary pieces of theater, and have the experience of putting on a show with a team of professional artists,” Cordaro said.

With COVID receding, she said that student matinees will resume this upcoming season and children as young as 9 years old “find a way into the work of Shakespeare.”

Rogers provided this link to a trailer of the episode.