Cal Shakes Hosts Young Filmmakers’ Premiere of A Midsummer Night’s D&D

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(Tracy Randolph, Photographer)
Stella Swenson, Skylar Vandeweg, Jada Geronimo, Annika Arvik, and Matthew Randolph.

    How do 400-year-old Shakespeare plays stay relevant in times of declining theater attendance and avid interest in Tik Tok videos? Ask the next generation.
    Tracy Randolph, artist and founder of Movie Makers, a production company for kids 8-18, asked. The result is an original adaptation, A Midsummer Night’s D&D, showing at Cal Shakes’ Bruns Theater Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m.
    “We are at a pivotal point in the theater industry and there’s a lot we can learn from the next generation,” said Cal Shakes’ Executive Director, Clive Worsley. “This is the first movie featuring young artists that we’ve shown here and we’re super excited.”
    These young artists were initially influenced by the actors of Cal Shakes. Last fall, when Randolph was searching for a Midsummer Night’s Dream script for her students, she came up uninspired. Then she took the class to Marcus Gardely’s adaptation of King Lear.
    “Not only was the play entertaining, but it was also alive with new meaning and delicious interpretation which excited my students,” said Randolph. “There was no turning back.”
    They were bubbling with ideas and we had to write our own adaptation.”
    She asked her students to write one act, which resulted in a Western, a sci-fi and ultimately the D&D favorite.
    Harper Fradley-Smith, 13, and Tracy’s son, Matthew Randolph, 16, co-wrote the entire screenplay which imagines two worlds: a Bay Area, after-school classroom with a burnt-out drama teacher and a Dungeons & Dragons campaign world.
    The student players enter an alternate world where they work out their internal and external conflicts while learning “what fools these mortals be.” The cast includes Jomar Tagatach from King Lear as Oberon, and each real-world student plays a corresponding character from Shakespeare’s cast, including Puck, a troubled, mischievous teen.
    “When writing our version of Shakespeare’s classic, I loved bringing in the aspect of Dungeons & Dragons, giving our characters backstories and heart so audiences will care about each of their paths in the film,” said Matthew.
    “A lot of people assume co-writing is difficult and strenuous, filled with lots of disagreements, but what I learned is it isn’t always true,” said Fradley-Smith. “Matty and I loved how we were able to mold the characters in the image of our friends, and how they grew and changed throughout our production.”
    Because Tracy spends a year developing one movie with her students, they dive deep into the themes and language while learning about visual storytelling.
    “Everyone knows what it’s like to feel outcast from a clique or to have a crush that is unrequited,” said Tracy, who studied theater at San Diego State and worked with SF Shakes. “Shakespeare captures the full spectrum of what it means to be human and if kids are allowed to have fun with it, then they respond.”
    The “fun” in this film includes a staged dream dance sequence on a vintage couch in the middle of an open field; the kids lugged this key prop to Briones Park for each shoot.
    The first Movie Makers film premiere was held in the Randolph’s backyard, where a bed sheet hung on a trampoline and families provided snacks. Since then, premieres have graced libraries, classrooms and school theaters. Tracy’s husband Jared Randolph, a videographer, helped connect Movie Makers with the Cal Shakes staff.
    What’s Next: Anniversaries
    Next year Cal Shakes celebrates its 50th by expanding programs, reaching out to neighbors and striving to be more things to more people.
    Movie Makers will celebrate its 13th year by “dancing on the line of superstition,” according to Tracy, and creating an adaptation of Macbeth.
    John Olchak, Cal Shakes Director of Marketing, said this “will create a virtuous circle, because there is no art for adults without art for kids and we are about closing that circle. Movie Makers has the secret sauce where the kids are brought into the art.”
    The show premieres Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. with gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 and up. Visit www.calshakes.org and www.tracyrandolph.org.

Amy Moellering can be reached at ajmoellering@gmail.com.

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