BWW Interview: Director of Education Kate Cordaro and A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE: TWELFTH NIGHT” at Two River Theater 1/ 31 to 2/9

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BWW Interview: Director of Education Kate Cordaro and A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE: TWELFTH NIGHT” at Two River Theater 1/ 31 to 2/9

Next up at Two River Theater (TRT) is A Little Shakespeare: Twelfth Night. The show will be on the Red Bank stage from January 31 to February 9.

Now in its seventh season as one of Two River Theater's most popular programs, "A Little Shakespeare" introduces the works of the Bard to hundreds of youth and adults each year. Through this program, Two River produces a 75-minute abridged version of a Shakespeare play, performed and supported backstage by high-school students, and directed and designed by theater professionals. had the pleasure of interviewing Two River Theater's Director of Education, Kate Cordaro about her career and the upcoming production of A Little Shakespeare: Twelfth Night.

Cordaro has served as Two River Theater's Director of Education since 2004, building their education department from the ground up. Under her guidance, TRT has become an artistic home for thousands of students through programs like A Little Shakespeare, Metro Scholars, Monday Masters, Play Dates, Spectrum Theater Residencies,Summer Intensives, TheaterWorks, Relaxed Performances, and a vibrant student matinee series. An accomplished teaching artist and director, Kate has taught acting, scene study, monologues workshops, theater games, and audition technique for over thirty years, and is an adjudicator for both the Monmouth and Ocean County Teen Arts Festivals. Favorite directing projects for young people include Bridge to Terabithia, Narnia, and Charlotte's Web for the Play Group Theatre in White Plains, NY; You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown for Act One Theatre School in Pittsburgh, PA; Alice; Words, Words, Words; Eat the Taste; four installments of The Heroes Project; Neverland; and Middle School Mysteries for TRT. Under Kate's guidance, Two River's education department has produced 16 original plays and musicals, created and performed by the student ensembles.Kate studied at the Stella Adler Conservatory and Musical Theater Works through NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. In a past life, she was an actor whose favorite roles include Lady Anne in Richard III, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, Dorine in Tartuffe, Mill Worker/Cleaning Woman in Working and Frauline Doktor Mathilde Von Zahnd in The Physicists at Soho Rep.

BWW Interview: Director of Education Kate Cordaro and A LITTLE SHAKESPEARE: TWELFTH NIGHT” at Two River Theater 1/ 31 to 2/9

You made a great transition from actor to Director of Education at Two River Theater. Tell us why your role at the TRT is so rewarding.

I knew that when I moved from New York to the Red Bank area in 2003, I was ready for the next phase of my career - one which was focused less on myself and more on my community. This position has allowed me to program work for thousands of young people over the years. That's the most rewarding part - the feedback from the students and their families about how one program or another changed their lives, or helped them to feel less alone in the world. It has also been incredible to be a part of Two River as we have grown into a nationally recognized and celebrated regional theater. It's an exciting time to be here.

TRT's Education Program is renowned throughout the area. We'd like to know a little about your staff that makes it happen.

Our education staff consists of me, our wonderful Education and Community Engagement Manager Amanda Espinoza, and a part-time cohort of fabulous Teaching Artists from all over NJ and NYC (and in one case, Wisconsin!) We look for a hard-to-find blend of artistic excellence, playful collaboration, attention to detail, positive reinforcement, a genuine appreciation for young people, and a sincere desire to make a difference. And a wicked sense of humor helps oh so much!

The program, "A Little Shakespeare" is a wonderful way to introduce people to the works of the Bard. Why do you think it has been so successful at TRT?

When Artistic Director John Dias had the idea for the program seven years ago, his intention was to make Shakespeare's work accessible to all-including the very youngest audience members.By cutting and adapting Shakespeare's plays to 75-90 minutes while still keeping his language intact, we are able to give our audiences a more bite-sized portion of these wonderful plays. And the high school students who make up the cast and crew are so very excited to work on these productions that their enthusiasm is contagious; our audiences can feel it and respond in kind.

We are excited about this season's production of A Little Shakespeare: Twelfth Night. Why do you think the show will appeal to a broad range of ages?

Our production of A Little Shakespeare: Twelfth Night is set in sunny Southern California at the Illyria Beach Club in the early 2000's. Our teenage cast are the perfect age to embrace this young romantic comedy. This play has everything - shipwrecks, mistaken identity, cross-dressing, unrequited love, a little bit of violence, and a killer soundtrack. Twelfth Night is a very musical play, and some of our students are exceptional musicians who make up the Illyria Beach Club house band. People of all ages will love this production!

Can you tell us a little about the cast and creative team for the show?

Our Little Shakes adaptor/director, Em Weinstein, is a delightful self- proclaimed "Shakespeare nerd" who directed their first Shakespeare play at their 11th birthday party. The love runs deep! Em has assembled a wonderful team of designers, all of whom were Em's fellow classmates and collaborators through Yale School of Drama's MFA program -Scenic Designer Gerardo Díaz Sánchez, Lighting Designer Krista Smith, Costume Designer Cole McCarty, and Sound Designer Michael Costagliola, who also composed the original music. Our cast and crew are made up of 19 students from 12 high schools in Monmouth, Middlesex, and Essex Counties. They have been working diligently on this production since November and are just so thrilled to share it with audiences.

What are some of the other programs coming up at TRT through the Education Department?

Registration for our popular Summer Intensives program (where students create a show in a week and do it every Friday) will open in February, and we are extending the program to four weeks this July. We are using our "create a show in a week" model this April 13-17 in our new Spring Break Intensives as well, and registration is currently open. Applications will be up soon for high school sophomores who want spend next year working and seeing plays at Two River through our Metro Scholars program. We are teaching theater classes with several organizations for people on the autism spectrum in our Spectrum Theater Residencies. Organizations who work with underserved students can apply for our TheaterWorks program as well. Students of all ages can participate in master classes with the amazing artists who work on our productions through Monday Masters. And Two River offers creative childcare with teaching artists for kids ages 6-11 during select performances in our season - they're called Play Dates! Our teaching artists explore themes from the production with kids in a fun and age-appropriate way, so that families can attend the theater together. All of this info and more can be found at our website:

Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW NJ readers to know!

I'll end with what I tell my son every day when he goes off to school: be brave, be kind, and do your best!

A Little Shakespeare: Twelfth Night will be performed at Two River Theater from 1/31 to 2/9. The Theater is located at 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Tickets for the production are $20 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under. For more information, visit or call the Box Office at 732.345.1400.

Photo Credit: Yurik L. Lozano

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From This Author Marina Kennedy