Daily Planet Staff
Berkeley students will present four performances of “Kiss Me, Kate” over the next two weeks at two school sites.
The performances will be held Friday and Saturday at Berkeley Arts Magnet Elementary School at 1645 Milvia St. and April 12 and 14 at Willard Middle School at 2425 Stuart St. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, young children are free.
“Kiss Me, Kate” is the modern musical theater production of William Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” The local performances will be presented by the Youth Musical Theater Commons, which includes students from Berkeley middle schools.
Bruce Wicinas of the Youth Musical Theater Commons notes that the current project was preceded by “Middle School Musical Theater” which restored musical theater to Willard in the fall of 1997 by producing “West Side Story” in the newly rehabilitated “Metal Shop Theater.” Willard had a prior history of musical theater which ended when Howard Frieberg left the staff some years back. Middle School Musical Theater made musical theater available as a sliding-scale-tuition-financed after-school class. “West Side Story” was followed by other classic musicals staged with voice instruction, choreography, moving sets and theatrical lighting.
Wicinas says the middle school project was actually heir to the Gilbert and Sullivan troupe, which concluded its 27-year run in Berkeley Schools at Malcolm X in 1997 with the retirement of co-founders Catherine Lynch and Arden Clute. The “G&S” program had initiated generations of kids and families to musical theater as an alternative to popular culture since its founding at Franklin school in 1971. “Middle School Musical Theater” was founded by Lynch, Wicinas and Evelyn Larsen – Wicinas and Larsen were parent managers of the G&S Troupe through its final two years.