Annapolis Shakespeare coming into its own in 'Twelfth Night"

Annapolis Shakespeare coming into its own in 'Twelfth Night"
Annapolis Shakespeare Rehearsal Photos: from left Alex Foley, Sally Boyett-D'Angelo, and Liesl McClintock. (Bud Johnson, Baltimore Sun)

The Annapolis Shakespeare Company has grown from a small workshop taught by Sally Boyett-D'Angelo in summer 2009 into a thriving young company that is already a full member of this county's established nonprofit performing-arts community.

The reason for this rapid rise quickly became apparent during my recent visit to a rehearsal of the coming production of Shakespeare's hilarious tale of love and mistaken identity, "Twelfth Night," to be offered in the company's new Bowie Playhouse venue.

From the beginning, Boyett-D'Angelo was struck by her students' passion for Shakespeare, which led her to found Annapolis Shakespeare Company in the fall of 2010.

After successful productions of "The Taming of the Shrew" and "Hamlet" at Children's Theatre of Annapolis in the fall of 2010, the company was selected as one of 10 Mid-Atlantic school groups to participate in a Shakespeare for a New Generation Grant from the Folger Theatre in Washington. This led to the company's version of "Hamlet" at the Folger Shakespeare Festival this past March.

The Annapolis Shakespeare Company has since received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and from the city of Bowie that allow it to become the newest of the four resident companies at Bowie Playhouse.

After a professional career that included leading roles in national touring companies of "Crazy for You" and "The Imaginary Invalid" and performances with the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, Boyett-D'Angelo moved from New York to Maryland in 1997; for the past three years she has lived in Crownsville with her husband and four children.

Recently at a "Twelfth Night" rehearsal, Boyett-D'Angelo conveyed a relaxed confidence and easy cordiality with the group of 24 young players. Neither she nor her assistant director, Alex Foley, nor rehearsal assistant Liesl McClintock showed any visible stress over readying this show for its opening at Bowie Playhouse on Aug. 11 for a two-weekend run.

"I am thrilled to have such a professional young cast of four college students and 20 secondary students," said Boyett-D'Angelo, who obviously enjoys rehearsalsk, adding, "I love working with them. They're so warm and generous, and together we're looking forward to presenting our 'Twelfth Night' at Bowie Playhouse." She expressed her admiration of and gratitude for Foley.

A student at King's College, New York, living for the summer with his family in Crownsville, Foley seemed equally delighted with this all-student cast. Having worked with the Annapolis Shakespeare group in "Taming of the Shrew," Foley said, "They are prepared in rehearsal and have already studied the subject."

McClintock is a senior at Rockbridge Academy in Millersville who has acted in all productions directed by Boyett-D'Angelo. McClintock shares a profound admiration and understanding of Shakespeare that she communicates to her student players.

Both Foley and McClintock have a lively passion for their bright, hard-working cast as well as for Shakespeare. This enthusiasm extended to Maddie Stevens, an 11th-grade Rockbridge student from Crownsville who will play Viola and has been involved with the company since last spring's "As You Like It." Stevens confided, "I never would have pictured myself doing Shakespeare."

Grove City College student Stephen Horst, a former member of the Maryland Boys Choir and later a student at Rockbridge, where he gained an appreciation of Shakespeare, will play Malvolio. Horst describes his role as "being the butt of every joke."

Looking forward to the entire 2011-12 season, Boyett-D'Angelo welcomes opportunities for Annapolis Shakespeare Company to work with the wider arts community by participating in two Shakespeare-themed concerts with Annapolis Opera at Maryland Hall. The first is Oct. 30 in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and the second Feb. 12, 2012, in a Shakespeare-themed program centering on Annapolis Opera's coming production of Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet." Four full-length performances of Annapolis Shakespeare Company's "The Comedy of Errors" will be offered at Children's Theatre of Annapolis November 10-12.

The company will host the first Secondary School Shakespeare Festival at Bowie Playhouse on April 21, 2012, when students will perform scenes and monologues from Shakespeare before judges and participate in master classes. Next summer, the company will present a three-week "Comedy of Errors" that will run in eight full-length performances at Bowie Playhouse.

For reservations for "Twelfth Night," running Aug. 11-20, Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m., call 410-703-1289. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $15 for adults.