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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Young Actors Handle Difficult Material “Like Professionals” in Walden Theatre’s Titus Andronicus


Allison Spanyer as Lavinia in Titus Andronicus.
Photo by Harlan Taylor.
Titus Andronicus

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Charlie Sexton

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2012 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Walden Theatre offers an opportunity for youth in the area that is quite special. The Theatre offers chances for young students to watch, perform and engage in works that might sometimes not be available in the area. These productions provide learning tools to help youngsters understand these plays, the verse as well as the characters and their stories. With Titus Andronicus, Walden Theatre has provided what Charlie Sexton refers to in his Director’s Note as Shakespeare’s “satire” of “blood, gore and revoltingly shocking ending.”

With young actors, it is important to remember that these folks are developing their skills and finding their artistic voices. These characters have been shaped to fit the framework of a youth conservatory. At times the adjustments work in favor of the production; other times, it leaves something to be desired. Calvin Baron as Aaron, a Moor, beloved by the Queen of the Goths, is rebellious and cunning. As an actor, Baron provides mature promise for leading roles later in his acting career. As one of the Queen’s minions, Aaron is himself in control of Demetrius and Chiron, played by Sean Campbell and Elliot Vitaz, respectfully. Baron's, Campbell's and Vitaz’s understanding of the verse as well as their delivery only added to their strong and evil performances as they partook in cruel actions.

Emma Wesslund and Clara Burton play Titus Andronicus and Marcus Andronicus. Casting women in strong male roles was a powerful and bold choice. These young actresses gently yet bravely handled the emotional burdens of the reign of terror set in motion by Tamora, Queen of the Goths, played with seductive power by Callie Trawick. Wesslund's and Burton’s performances are only strengthened by Allison Spanyer as Lavinia, Titus’s daughter, who perhaps suffers the most extreme terror throughout the play. Providing an innocent and pretty demeanor, Spanyer’s eyes and facial expressions scream of fear and trauma in the latter half of the play.

The material and subject matter in this piece are very controversial, even by today’s standards. Under the direction of Charlie Sexton, these young theatre students handled the mature subject matter like professionals. The wide range of talents within this young cast is a perfect example of how Walden Theatre is an actor’s breeding ground and how classic theatrical pieces are major tools to help these gifted youngsters grow and astonish. In Titus Andronicus, these young actors do just that. 

Titus Andronicus

May 14, 15, 17, 20, 22

Walden Theatre
1123 Payne Street
502-589-0084


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