Part I: Catching up with Booker Vance and Alyss Weissglass
Alyss Weissglass, Oak Park River Forest ‘14, and Booker Vance, Kenwood Academy ‘15, shared the stage in Chicago Youth Shakespeare’s 2014 production of As You Like It. Since their time portraying Orlando and Oliver, respectively, the two have gone on to use the lessons learned through CYS to do great things-- both on and off stage.
Alyss, a rising senior at Carnegie Mellon University, is still involved with theater in her free time. In fact, while directing a recent university production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, she says that she used acting techniques she gained exposure to in CYS to strengthen the show. When she’s not in the theater, she studies computer science and studio art. This summer, Alyss is combining her cerebral and creative skills while interning with Vimeo, the popular video-sharing website.
For Booker, CYS was an opportunity to see himself in Shakespearean roles he previously believed to be off limits. He points out, “A lot of time when you have people that are either minorities or that have accents, they think with Shakespeare you have to put on a certain Shakespearean dialect. That’s not the case.” He credits CYS for a shift in his acting career, explaining, “It was like an ability had been woken up inside of me. I was able to do bigger shows, take on different roles, take on different leads, take on supporting roles.” Booker, a rising junior studying acting at Morehouse College, has returned to Chicago this summer to appear in Twelfth Night as Duke Orsino with the Hyde Park Community Players opening July 14th.
CYS was a chance for Alyss and Booker to get to know people outside of their regular social circles. Alyss points out that it was her first time acting with people whom she’d never met before--different from the school productions she was used to. Booker adds, “It was such a diverse array of people. It was kids from Oak Park, to South Side, to West Side.” Alyss and Booker continue to stay in touch with the rest of the As You Like It cast through social media.
Alyss cites her time in CYS as vital for teaching her to accept people, even when the costumes come off and the stage lights go down. She appreciates how the skills she’s gained from acting bleed into other areas of her life, saying, “Acting doesn’t end when you leave the theater. All the things you learn about--being true to a character, existing authentically in a space and in your body--can and should be applied to your real life.” Booker agrees, adding that CYS taught him the importance of vulnerability. He explains, “As a man, we are taught not to show emotions a lot and we’re taught to conceal them.” During his time in the program, he was able to grow more comfortable with himself, thereby becoming a stronger actor. Booker explains, “The big thing that CYS taught me is it’s okay to be open. It’s okay to let other people in. It’s okay to be vulnerable.
Check out some of our favorite Bard books and articles:
Read Louis Fantasia's Introduction to Playing Shakespeare's Characters: Monarchs and Madmen
Released in 2019