GONZALES — Ninjas are stealth by design. Their years of training allow them to sneak in and out of situations, execute the mission and disappear before anyone recognizes their handiwork.
Our hometown ninjas possess that same prowess and deft ability. But instead of sneaking into an emperor’s palace, their preferred place of battle is the stage. Instead of sliding away into the night undetected, they slip into costume to play another part.
The Shakespeare Ninjas are springing back into action this Sunday at the amphitheatre behind the Gonzales Memorial Museum. Director Barbara Crozier is excited to showcase her young students at this unique location.
“We’ll be performing in the round, so people will be right down close and the kids are going to be all throughout the audience,” Crozier said. “And this is the first time we’ve done this, and we wanted to get the audience involved in this.”
You may recall back in March when the troupe set out to christen the amphitheater as their new playground but inclement weather forced them to relocate to the Crystal Theater. The same contingency plan is in place again, but sunny skies are forecast and it should be a fine time for some afternoon acting.
Most of the scenes on display Sunday will come from William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”
“They’re building a body of work of scripts that they are comfortable with, characters they are comfortable with,” she continued. “You’ll see things from Romeo and Juliet, there may be excerpts from Macbeth, but the main body of work will come from “As You Like It.”
The troupe will also revisit the piece that they performed for the Texas Independence Day celebration that was to be scheduled at the museum. Crozier was so impressed with what the students put into the act that she deemed it worthy of an encore and a larger audience.
Returning will be a couple of students that are veterans of the Crystal Theater’s summer workshops and shows. Angelica Mathis and Pilar Romero have been lighting up crowds recently as part of Gonzales High School’s one act play and are ready to rejoin the group. Another young student, Tyler Barfield, has blossomed and will be attending the prestigious Doc Ayers acting camp this summer at Winedale. It will be interesting what roles these talented thespians will take on when the curtain rises.
“You just never know what kind of excitement will be generated from this program,” Crozier said. “That’s the cool thing about this group. It’s such an ensemble.”
For the uninitiated, the Shakespeare Ninjas are the young theatre group based out of the Crystal Theater’s acting stable. Relying almost solely on community contributions, the troupe puts on stage shows throughout the year that showcase the talent that Crozier coaxes out of the future stars.
New this year is Charlotte Georgiou who is on board to fine-tune the acting. Her background in musical productions and her time playing various Shakespearean characters in London’s West End theatre district look to further sharpen the abilities of the students, especially going into the summer workshops and their Shakespeare in Winedale experience.
And Leslie Buesing from the GHS district champion theater department will migrate over for the summer as well. This bevy of talent, as well as a few specialty programmers that will engage the students in costuming and such, are what Crozier uses to make this outfit the envy of surrounding communities. The teachings that they get now will no doubt contribute to their success.
“If they get a lot of those fundamentals at early ages, it’s easy for them to springboard into real success later in junior high and high school,” explained Crozier.
“There’s not a profession in the world that can’t benefit from having been taught the lessons of confidence and articulation and being able to speak in front of a room full of people and do it comfortably and confidently and well thought out,” she said. “And I think that carrying that kind of confidence into the workplace, regardless of weather they’re going into theatre or not is invaluable for these kids.”
To the benefit of the students and the audience, Crozier promises a show Sunday loaded with talent and running approximately 40 minutes or so. The scenes are small so that each kid receives the one-on-one attention that they deserve and get the chance to act out on a stage in front of proud parents and adoring community folk.
“We really like that small element. It keeps the kids active all the time,” she said.
Patrons are encouraged to come to the amphitheatre early on Sunday to find a good spot and to enjoy a picnic dinner. The “Ninja Nights” program begins at 6 p.m. at the Gonzales Memorial Museum, located at 414 Smith St. and is free. If rain clouds boil up again, the show moves to the Crystal Theatre at 511 St. Lawrence Street.
For more information on the theatre, the summer workshop, Camp Shakespeare or how to be a friendly funder of the arts, visit www.gonzalescrystaltheatre.org.