SHAKESPEARE HIGH – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

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In Southern California, a mixed demographic of high school drama student teams from several schools scattered across the areas diverse neighborhoods, prepare to compete in the Drama Teachers Association of Southern California Shakespeare Festival, held each April (specifically on April 22 in 2023). Over the years since its inception more than a hundred years ago, the annual Shakespeare competition has become just as popular as local and national teenage sports competitions and events, and members of the participating schools’ drama groups are recognized on campus as stars.

Documentary filmmaker Alex Rotaru follows several students who are members of four competing drama teams as the prepare for the big day of the 90th annual edition of the competition. Rotaru uses footage of auditions, rehearsals and performances, stitched together with on camera interviews with the drama teachers, students and several A-list Hollywood actors — Kevin Spacey, Mare Winningham and Val Kilmer, among others — who participated in the Shakespeare competition while they were teenagers attending high school in Southern California. At one point in the movie the stars return to their alma mater, Chattsworth High School, to give words of advice to the fledgling actors and attest to the importance of the school’s drama team and the challenging of the competition to their own growth as professional actors. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

EDITOR’S NOTE: Shakespeare High is steaming on Prime Video.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).