A history of partnerships
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A history of partnerships

With an exciting new summer production opening in July, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in the magnificent Corsini gardens, Floor van der Steen talked to Shaun Loftus, artistic director of Florence English Speaking Theatrical Artists (F.E.S.T.A.), about how far the local English-language theatre company has

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Thu 21 Jun 2012 12:00 AM

With an exciting new summer production opening in July, Shakespeare’s
Romeo and Juliet in the magnificent Corsini gardens, Floor van der Steen talked
to Shaun Loftus, artistic director of Florence English Speaking Theatrical
Artists (F.E.S.T.A.), about how far the local English-language theatre company
has come since its establishment.

 

Florence’s only
resident English-language theater company, F.E.S.T.A was founded in 2008 by a
small group of English speakers who wanted to reach out to the larger cultural
community in their new home city. Led by Loftus and Elia Nichols, F.E.S.T.A.’s
original mission was to develop artistic relationships here and abroad, to find
ways to use new media forms to break through the linguistic and cultural
barriers they faced as strangers to our new country, and to provide an artistic
home for the English-speaking artists and many bicultural families in Florence.

‘We started out with big dreams-and no money,’ Loftus
recalls. ‘Not much has changed. Elia Nichols, my partner in this dream, and I
tested the waters with a small children’s production of Peter and the Wolf, and it just took off
from there.’

 

Since then,
F.E.S.T.A. has produced a string of artistically impressive and wildly
well-received works, including a bilingual production of Alice in Wonderland, The Velveteen Rabbit (at Teatro Pergola, for
Meyer Hospital), and, at the Bargello, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (see TF 99 and 125, respectively).

 

In addition to its
main-stage productions, F.E.S.T.A. has run scores of various workshops for
kids. ‘We try very hard to be responsive to what the city’s children and our
growing contingent of young actors need at any given moment. F.E.S.T.A. Kids
projects have included anti-bullying workshops, storytelling workshops,
productions of classic literature and more than a few children’s main-stage
productions,’ Loftus explains.

 

Children in the F.E.S.T.A.
program learn more than just stagecraft. ‘With our kids programs, we work
especially hard to give back to the community,’ Loftus says. ‘Our children have
raised money for children’s leukemia, for Meyer Children’s Hospital, for ABIO.
Most recently, our Halloween Spooktacular raised more than 1,000 euro for Dynamo Camp. We feel
strongly that it is important to show children that they can change the world,
even a little … It’s empowering! Giving back is one of the most important
things we can do.’

 

Loftus observes,
‘F.E.S.T.A. has enjoyed so much good fortune along the way, and we owe so many
people so much. Our core company members-Suzanne DaSilva, Garth Laughton, David
Ballerini, Lana Cuhna-put in hours and hours of work for no pay. We have had
scores of interns and volunteers, people who have helped us get our productions
off the ground. We have been blessed by the talents of so many artists, both
here and from around the world. Our F.E.S.T.A. parents have been supportive
each step of the way.’

 

Loftus continues: ‘We
have been helped by many Florentine institutions, without whom we could not do
the work we do. There are too many to name in total, but The Florentine has been our media partner from the beginning; and
both the St. James and Methodist churches have provided us a home. We owe
Riccardo Ventrella a debt of great gratitude for helping us to mount
productions at the Bargello and our Velveteen
Rabbit at Teatro Pergola.
KME and Dynamo Camp have become our greatest angels, helping us get our actors
here for our shows and giving our actors the privilege of working with the kids
of Dynamo Camp.’

 

F.E.S.T.A. continues
to seek out partnerships within the Florentine community. As Loftus observes,
‘This summer’s program is possible thanks to the Corsini family, who have
generously opened their beautiful gardens for our production of Romeo and Juliet.’

 

 

July 13 to 21: Under the stars with the star-crossed lovers

 

The historic Corsini
gardens provide the perfect backdrop for F.E.S.T.A.’s production of Romeo and Juliet, featuring a cast of
actors from around the world. Inspired by ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ productions
in the United States and elsewhere, F.E.S.T.A. invites audience members to
visit the monumental gardens of the grand Corsini Palace (Porta al Prato 58)
before the show. From 7pm, enjoy a picnic in the shade and taste the wines
produced by the Corsini family. Tickets for F.E.S.T.A.’s production of Romeo and Juliet July 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21 are already available
online at Boxol.it (http://alturl.com/f74gp),
the Paperback Exchange, B&M Bookstore and www.festatheatre.com

 

 

June 25 to July 6: Shakespeare Camp

 

With two structured,
performance-oriented workshops under the direction of professional U.S. actors,
directors and educators, Shakespeare Camp gives kids aged 6 to 16 a chance to
study acting, Shakespeare and his plays, and stage combats with this year’s
distinguished group of visiting artists. Focus is on friendship, fun, and
English literacy, using theater games, stage combats, and the words of the
immortal Bard! With individualized instruction, Shakespeare Camp is for
experienced and inexperienced actors. To register or for information, see www.festatheatre.com, e-mail info@festatheatre.com or call
320/3115610.

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