As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” So when COVID-19 put the brakes on indoor performances, aspiring actor Rhett Ricardo, of Dade City, had an idea.
He formed a “Shakespeare in the Yard” company, and offered performances in the family’s Dade City backyard.
He organized performances of “Much Ado About Nothing,” in November and of a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in January.
And, when the Arts in Motion (AIM) Pasco program couldn’t find a suitable venue, Rhett’s parents — Jill and Jason Ricardo — offered up their backyard as the setting for smaller AIM plays — where young actors would have a place to perform and the audience could remain socially distanced.
Jill Ricardo is vice president of production for the AIM Pasco program — which gives youths a chance to pursue their interest in theater.
Typically, Arts in Motion puts on two large musicals each year.
The productions usually involve 50 to 60 performers, and each child that auditions gets a role, Jill Ricardo said.
When the organization shifted to smaller productions — to keep things going — she said she was surprised by the level of interest the young actors displayed.
“In a musical, you can rely on the big, flashy numbers to get you through,” she said.
In the plays staged in the Ricardos’ backyard, the actors had to develop completely different skill sets, she explained.
They performed “The Laramie Project,” “Greater Tuna,” “Snow White Rap,” “The Diary of Ann Frank,” and “The Lend Me a Tenor.”
“The Laramie Project” explores the story of Matthew Shephard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was beaten and left to die.
“That was a really powerful show for us,” Ricardo said.
They also did “The Diary of Anne Frank,” based on a journal kept by a young Jewish girl who chronicled two years of her family’s life in hiding during German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.
Her diary was published two years after the girl’s death in a concentration camp.
Ricardo was moved by the work done by the cast, describing it as “a really, really beautiful show.”
“Greater Tuna” and “Lend Me a Tenor” are comedies, and “Snow White Rap” gave the younger children a chance to perform.
“Each play we did, there were four performances,” she said. “It was busy around here.
“My husband and I were exhausted in the end,” Ricardo said.
Artists in Motion is finished for this season, but expects to audition in August for its next show.
By then, Ricardo hopes they will be able to find an indoor venue for their performances.
However, she’s not opposed to continuing to have some plays in the family’s backyard.
She’s a huge believer in giving youths a chance to get involved in the theater.
“I think art allows them to express their feelings in a way that’s productive, and they can explore their feelings, and they explore the world, in a safe space,” Ricardo said.
The young actors also get a chance to develop teamwork and experience “building something from nothing — the act of creation,” Ricardo added.
Arts in Motion is a nonprofit community youth theater and arts education organization. For more information, check the website ArtsinMotionPasco.org.
Published June 09, 2021
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