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In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Madison's Young Shakespeare Players takes children as young as 7 and places them in full length productions. Photo: Richard DiPrima

In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Young Shakespeare Players founder and co-director Richard DiPrima started the company in his backyard in 1980.

In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

DiPrima is also an accomplished photographer, and he has taken hundreds of pictures of the young actors in YSP shows.

In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

All children who want to be a part of the company are cast in a production.

In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

All of the costumes are sewn by Richard's wife, Anne DiPrima, who is the company's co-director.

My most inspirational theater person


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Each YSP actor is given a word by word analysis of every line in his or her role, recorded on a CD by DiPrima. Last year the Young Shakespeare Players published "The Actor's (and Intelligent Reader's) Guide to the Language of Shakespeare," an 854-page volume the size of a phone book.

Authored by DiPrima, it sells for $85 and will be available at Amazon.com in the new year. APT co-founder and classical actor Randall Duk Kim wrote a blurb for the back cover that says, "In my 50 years of performing the classics, I have not seen so comprehensive a guide for the use of Shakespeare's language."

Giving his book a small plug, DiPrima says it is useful for the person who simply loves to read Shakespeare. "You are an actor if you are reading Shakespeare well," he asserts.

After 20 years of exclusively working on Shakespeare, YSP added some George Bernard Shaw to its repertoire. In 2007 the company staged the full ten and a half hour adaptation of Charles Dickens' "Nicholas Nickleby" that the Royal Shakespeare Company produced on Broadway in the '80s.

This year, DiPrima adapted the Dickens novel "Our Mutual Friend" for the stage, and the group mounted it for two separate runs. The adaptation has been published and will be available on Amazon in 2012.

The YSP Playhouse has limited lighting and scenic capabilities. "I don't want the tail to wag the dog," DiPrima explains.

But shows are beautifully costumed, thanks to Anne DiPrima, who sews all of the clothing. Also a psychologist, she has maintained a full time practice while being heavily involved in YSP.

The Playhouse's basement is used for costume storage, as is the DiPrimas' home, which is next door to the theater. The company has an inventory of wigs Anne has accumulated from thrift stores and online browsing.

Jealous parents lobbied to be included in YSP programing a few years ago, and they now have their own productions. Some shows have mixed casts, with the kids often coaching the older actors.

However, the name is still the Young Shakespeare Players, and the focus has not drifted from the children.

"This is about the kids, the way they can connect with what is most beautiful in our culture and language, and what is in themselves," DiPrima says.

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Talkbacks

kristinshawnj | Dec. 29, 2011 at 7:42 p.m. (report)

YSP has been the best thing I have ever let my kids do. Like many YSP families, it all started when we went to a production my friend's daughter was in. At the intermission, my daughter, age 11, looked to me and said, "I MUST DO THIS"! It was the outlet for her dramatic side, her creativity, her assertiveness that she needed. There's been no turning back. My son is now involved and they are both thriving as actors, learning valuable aspects of friendship, work ethic, and independence. I've also developed a love affair with the theater, something that I'd never thought much about before age 40. The experience has been no less than amazing. Richard and Anne are no less than amazing. Thank you for recognizing them in this article. I'm so glad other people get as excited about the program as I do. ~Kristin S. Johnson P.S. Totally contrary to Shakespeare's magnificent works, I promote the theater on Twitter. Feel free to follow @yspmadison if you'd like updates on what is going on. We also have a Facebook page. /youngshakespeareplayers

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