But interaction with the local schools through assemblies and a stage-craft class for high school seniors has inspired students to join Shakespeare at Play, she said.
“They know us and they ask how they can help,” Gates said. “Some want to be crew members who dress the set and others want to be actors.”
Megan Sward, 21, of Burbank got involved when one of her friends served an internship with the company, she said.
“I helped move things around in the warehouse when they were putting the costumes together,” Sward said. “Today, I’m helping with the popcorn and soda.”
Sward, who attends Los Angeles Valley College and has hopes of transferring to USC or UCLA to major in film, would like to become a screenwriter and/or script supervisor, she said.
“I love theater,” she said. “It’s such a way to reach people and get people involved in seeing the performances. You can reach the young kids and so many different types of people.”
Thomas Demasters, 17, a soon-to-be senior at John Burroughs High School, has a sister who was a stage manager for the show, he said.
“Debbie asked me to do stagehand work and today I helped with the backdrop for the stage placing the flower on the set and I’m helping with the concession stand now,” he said.
“I think it’s a fun way to reach people. The community comes together and it’s a nice environment, a great show and everybody has fun.”
The event started with a pre-show featuring magic by Micah Cover and the singing of pirate and pub songs from the 1700s by New Providence. The play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” followed.
“It’s a wonderful gift to the community from Shakespeare at Play,” said Joan Cappocchi, library assistant at Central Library.
“The library supports the program. It’s funded by the Friends of the Burbank Public Library as well as the funds Debbie raises to put on the program.”
The program draws more than 300 people each week, she added.
Burbank residents Jennifer and Tony Kaap, who were attending the event for a second year, expressed appreciation for the production.
“I like that the kids get exposed to Shakespeare and because it’s free,” Jennifer Kaap said.
“I work for the library and people start asking us in January if they are coming back. That got me intrigued.”
Tony Kaap said he liked the informality of the staging and presentation in the park.
“It takes Shakespeare down off the pedestal and makes him more approachable for kids,” he said.