When 250 children and their parents who live in the diverse communities of Sylmar, Paramount, Compton and Boyle Heights loaded onto buses at their local schools at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 20, they had no idea of the wonders they would see and experience.
It was a day like none other. It was the butterflies! It was the lizards! It was the trees, the birds! And it was the magical stage at the Theatricum Botanicum.
These are the children and families of City Hearts: Kids Say Yes To the Arts, Topanga’s own 33-year-old, non-profit dedicated to transforming the lives of at-greatest-risk children through the arts, and they came to Topanga to celebrate City Hearts’ Eighth Annual Shakespeare Challenge, Photography Exhibit and Recital.
The Challenge was again coordinated by Rebecca Rasmussen and our esteemed judges included: Diana Burbano, playwright, actor and teaching artist at South Coast Repertory; Tom Shelton, writer, composer, musical director, teacher and actor; Richard Azurida, who has worked in TV, film, commercials, voiceover and performed in more than ten Shakespeare plays with Independent Shakespeare Company’s Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival; Jonathan Cake, award-winning actor and alumnus of Cambridge University and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Great Britain; and Julianne Nicholson, who has been acting in theatre and television for more than 20 years and was in the films, Black Mass and August Osage County.
After a delicious lunch in the garden catered by Rocco’s Cocina, the event concluded with the joyous and delightful Recital. Performances included Dance numbers with adorable kindergartners, songs on guitar, a short Pokemon play written and staged entirely by second-to-fourth-grade students, a spectacular Bollywood-style number from City Hearts’ production of Aladdin from our school in Boyle Heights, and “The Harry Potter Ballet” with students from Paramount.
Everyone at City Hearts thanks our amazing volunteers including City Hearts Junior Board President Nina Lowry, Mark Winkworth, Susan DeWitt, Juliet Jason, Jen-Lan Lou, John Sandoval, Joe Grassi, Victoria Nichols, Tanya and Emma Farkas, Debbie Duval and Carissa Mosley. A special shout out goes to Kristina Rocco-Levy and the amazing Karla Morrison for making our delicious lunch possible.
For information on how to help City Hearts: (310) 455-2898; cityhearts.org.