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IF THESE SHADOWS HAVE OFFENDED
28 May 2007
If anybody questions the effect that a teacher can have on the lives of students, one need only to have been in Davis this weekend. It was a two-part celebration and I'll deal with it in two parts. But at the center of the weekend were two high school teachers, Dave Burmester and Dick Brunelle, both of whom I have talked about before.
If it's Memorial Day weekend, it must be time for Shakespeare in the Park.
This was the 25th anniversary of Acme Theatre Company's free annual outdoor performance of a Shakespeare play.
Acme Theatre Company is a unique, independent, self-sustaining community theater group for young artists of high school age. The group began in 1980 when English teacher Dave Burmester was asked to direct a show for the ailing drama teacher. He had never done anything like this before, but had done a bit of theatre himself in younger days.
The first production was A Thurber Chronicle, a 10-cast member show. The experience was such a positive one for everyone, they sat around trying to decide how they could do more of it. By the spring of 1981 the decision had been made to start a young people's theater, separate from the high school.
Naming the fledgling company was the first challenge. The founders emphatically did not want to be "The Teen Theater." Burmester joked that they could be "The Pimple Players," or "Acne Theater." "...and then there just was sort of a moment where there was an epiphany," Dave remembered, in an interview I did with him two years ago. "We crossed out the N and put the M up there and we became the Acme Theater Company."
The free Shakespeare in the Park performances began shortly after that, as a thank you to town businesses who had helped the fledgling group raise money for its first production.
There is an a small art museum, the Pence Gallery, in the middle of town. At that time it had a small yard behind it on which someone had built a stage and where musicales were performed one day a week at noontime.
Dave decided this would be a perfect place to do an outdoor performance. "We wanted to have fun, give something to the community, and do some good art."
They started out with a potpourri of scenes from various Shakespeare plays and now, 25 years later, have lots and lots of full length productions under their belt.
Jeri joined the group in its second or third season, and Paul shortly after that. Ned worked on the set crew for most of the productions, so Acme became a real "family group."
The Pence Gallery expanded a few years back and lost its stage area. Acme moved to the outdoor stage at the Art Center, which has a nice quasi amphitheatre which is perfect for such things (if you don't mind the skateboarders rolling through the middle of the audience at inopportune moments!).
This production of "Midsummer Night's Dream" will be Dave's last. He hopes to find someone to take over direction of future productions (he retired from teaching several years ago and, silly man, would like to have some time to enjoy his retirement).
Every time I go to one of these shows, I think of all the kids I know who have gone through Acme Theatre Co., many of whom have gone on to do good things in professional or community theatre. Dave's own son is a playwright who is in exciting negotiations with big name Hollywood people to turn his play about veterans of the Iraq war into a motion picture.
We saw Dara Yazdani at the show last night.
Dara's last outdoor show was last year, The Venetian Twins by Carlo Goldoni. I watched Dara's progress from a new member of Acme to his senior year, when he won the Acme Paul Sykes Memorial Scholarship. I could not have been more pleased.
Like Dick, whose own special event occurred today (and will be reported on tomorrow), Dave has had a major impact on hundreds of kids in this town. I am proud to have been a small part of it.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
John Ramos as "Bottom" in Midsummer Night's Dream
This is entry #2615