With Much Revelry, LMC-TV Honors Shakespeare Director and Teacher Dee O’Brien

by Joan R. Simon

Dee and students
Dee O'Brien and a cast of characters from current classes at Mamaroneck HS

(November 18, 2004) More than 200 people gathered on Sunday evening, November 14, to honor Dee O’Brien, Hommocks English teacher and founder of the student-based Semi-Royal Shakespeare Company (SRSC) which she has directed for more than thirty years. On hand were many former and current students and their parents, along with friends and supporters, as LMC-TV presented Ms. O’Brien with their seventh annual Sunny Award for community service.

mhs

MHS students Jessie Bear and Steve Northrup perform at the award ceremony.

Dressed in elaborate period costumes, current SRSC participants performed a medley of Shakespeare scenes and humorous adaptations, with high school senior Teddy Cecil serving as “Master of Revels.” Ms. O’Brien thanked them for “representing the thousands of students who have gone before you.” And some of Ms. O’Brien’s more than 3000 former students returned to support their admired teacher and Shakespeare director.

Where are they now?

A group of 1997 graduates who are still “in the field” was on hand, including Jonas Wadler who has written and performed a one-man Off-Broadway show “360: No Action, No Passover, No Emergency.” Catherine Zambito, who was Kate to Mr. Wadler’s Petruchio in a SRSC production of “Taming of the Shrew,” is currently studying acting with Susan Batson (coach to Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn) and has made a film that will be shown at festivals this year. Pip Huffman, another ’97 graduate, said he preferred “behind the scenes roles” in the theater world and is currently assistant to a casting director.


Dee O'Brien with former students Annie Witten and Susannah Cherasky

First year Columbia Law School student Susannah Cherkasky (class of ’99), whose three siblings have also participated in Shakespeare productions, remarked, “I miss Shakespeare. Doing Shakespeare gives you confidence at an age when you need it. If you can learn Shakespeare at age 16, you can do almost anything.”

Paying tribute by video tape were other former students, including MHS ’04 graduate Matt Devine, who thanked Ms. O’Brien for helping him “not only as an actor, but as a person,” and reminded the current SRSC players that “Dee doesn’t do this because she has to; she does it because she loves to.” Mark Alhadeff, who has continued to act since graduating from MHS in 1992, remarked: “So much of what I do now comes from this spark that happened when I was working with Dee. I feel like those experiences were the fondest memories I have of performances. They were so uninhibited, so pure.”

Some of Ms. O’Brien’s former students are still a part of her life today. Maria Zambrano, who performed Shakespeare as a middle schooler in 1987, is now Ms. O’Brien’s colleague at the Hommocks where she is a special education teacher. “She reminds me of the Pied Piper. Wherever she is children of all ages want to follow her.” Even her dermatologist, Dr. Elizabeth Marsh, is a Shakespeare alumna, having been Ms. O’Brien’s “first Rosalind” in the late 70’s SRSC’s production of “As You Like It.”

In accepting her award, Ms. O’Brien quoted Shakespeare as she thanked the audience:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world that has such people in’t.


LMC-TV will air the Sunny Award program on Channel 75:

Nov. 22-23: 6 pm (12 am; 6 am; 12pm)
Nov. 24-25: 8 pm (2 am; 8 am; 2 pm)
Nov. 26-28: 11 pm (5 am; 11 am; 5 pm through Monday at 5 pm)

 

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