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Bringing the Bard to a new generation

By David Dixon

Shakespeare Festival features student performers

A family tradition in Balboa Park is returning on April 28. On the last Saturday of the month, the 13th annual Student Shakespeare Festival, presented by the San Diego Shakespeare Society, will feature students from kindergarten to high school performing scenes that the Bard wrote for his famous plays.

The event was originally started by the founder of the society, Alex Sandie. Sandie was born and raised in Scotland, and now lives in Del Cerro after bouncing around the world.

Students performing a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the 2015 Student Shakespeare Festival (Photo courtesy of San Diego Shakespeare Society)

Although he has since resigned as the president of the local company, Sandie still serves as the artistic director.

“We want to bring the education of Shakespeare to students at an early age,” he said of the Student Shakespeare Festival’s mission.

Six stages are being rented for the Shakespeare Festival, both at the El Prado pedestrian promenade as well as the Casa Del Prado area.

An aspect about the Shakespeare Society that Sandie hopes to see evolve is the use of volunteers.

“We need more volunteer workers to head up the annual events,” he said. “We need people to act as a treasurer, helping with fundraising, etc., with the six events that the society puts on each year.”

Sandie’s daughter, Lisa, is the current festival director. Her responsibilities include getting volunteers, reaching out to schools that participated in previous festivals, and contacting new schools.

She has attended the event every year, to support her father and family. When asked about ways that the Shakespeare celebration can expand, Lisa feels that there are multiple ways to achieve success.

“I think that we need a bigger organization that can get the grants that we can’t,” she said. “We’re going to be looking into ways to increase attending, funding, and publicity.”

Outside of the festival, Lisa owns a homeowner’s associa tion management company. “The festival project has been passed on from my dad as a labor of love,” she said. “I want my children and grandchildren to appreciate the arts like my parents taught my sister and I.”

Following the festival, Alex Sandie is going to continue being a part of the Shakespeare Society.

“I spend probably more hours than I should on the computer working on society business,” he said.

Sandie loves the enjoyment that students get out of the festival.

“A teacher keeps on telling me that most of her kids say this is the best day of their lives,” he said. “It’s very heartening and educational for them.”

Given how impactful the tradition continues to be for audiences and rising performers, Sandie has plenty of reasons to be proud of all his accomplishments. A large number of children and teenagers are going to become Shakespeare aficionados for life because of his work and success.

The 13th annual Student Shakespeare Festival will be held at Balboa Park on April 28. For tickets or more information, visit  sandiegoshakespearesociety.org.

— David Dixon is a freelance theater and film writer. Reach him at daviddixon0202@gmail.com.

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