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Directing a new generation

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[Times photo: Ron Thompson]
Pat Lewkowicz was artistic director for the final installment of the Citrus County Art Leagues Shakesspeare festival.

By JORGE SANCHEZ

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 28, 2001


HERNANDO -- Staging the works of William Shakespeare can be a daunting task for directors, but Pat Lewkowicz revels in teaching these great works to a younger generation.

For the past six years, Lewkowicz has been the director of the Shakespeare in the Hills Festival at the Citrus County Art League. The festival gets its name from being situated next to Citrus Hills, a housing development in Central Citrus County.

Lewkowicz is a director and drama teacher from Chicago, who retired to Citrus County eight years ago and immediately became one of the art league's most popular directors.

Although she has directed plays in the regular season such as Driving Miss Daisy, Master Class and Foxfire, the Shakespeare festival is one of her favorite activities, and it has grown in popularity over the past six years. Two plays are performed in rotation each festival.

"We have lots of people coming back each year," Lewkowicz said. "They love it. We usually have 40 to 45 people coming out for auditions."

The cast is full of young adults, some of whom had never read a Shakespeare play. And Lewkowicz calls for the plays to be performed in the Renaissance English of the author.

"We use mainly high school and junior-college students," Lewkowicz said. "It wasn't as hard as you might think to coach them on the dialogue. They had a few rough spots, but they've learned it really well."

This year's festival, which wrapped up Aug. 12, featured 12-year-old Autumn Siegle in the role of Desdemona. She played the bride of Othello, whose role was performed by an adult, Bruce Bellamy. Siegle relied on Lewkowicz's directing to connect with the emotions of a mature woman.

Lewkowicz says she thinks most people can enjoy Shakespeare if they approach it as they do other plays, expecting clear speech and fast-paced action.

"These kids catch on very quickly," she said.

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