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Shakespeare in the Park

Midsummer Night’s Dream performance in Grand Park on May 4, 2014

William Shakespeare is turning 450 and thanks to a creative collaborative, his plays are coming to Athens Park.

The Inner City Shakespeare Ensemble, in partnership with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Los Angeles, Britweek and Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation, will be presenting performances with young actors and students from Los Angeles Unified Schools on May 17.

Thomas Carlton, 19, is a veteran Shakespearean. A graduate of Washington Prep, Carlton had his first experience with Shakespeare in 11th grade when he played Lysander in Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2012. Back then, he knew little about the Bard and cared even less.

“I knew Shakespeare was an old writer but had no interest in learning about him until I was cast,” Carlton said.

Veteran Shakespearean, Thomas Carlton, 19.

At first, Shakespeare’s Elizabethan English was baffling, with phrases such as “Thou canst compel no more than she entreat” but now Carlton can recite verses by heart.

“It was awkward at first. I didn’t know how to say any of his lines,” Carlton said. “Now I can read fluently. It helps you speak better. And it helps you think more critically and express yourself better.”

After playing Sebastian in Inner City Shakespeare Ensemble’s production of Twelfth Night last year, Carlton returns to A Midsummer Night’s Dream — this time in the role of Demetrius, the iconic Athenian lover.

Inner City Shakespeare Ensemble, was founded in 2011 by producers Katy Haber and Paul Heller as co-chairs of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Los Angeles Education and Outreach Committee. They partnered with Dr. Melanie Andrews, drama teacher at Washington Prep to expose students to the Bard.

Inspired by Haber, Heller and Andrews—not to mention a certain 16th century playwright– Carlton has decided to focus on directing and producing and is now studying filmmaking at Los Angeles City College.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed on May 17th at 3 p.m. at Athens Park.