Today we catch up with some of our first alums!
Chicago Youth Shakespeare has come a long way since its first production of Macbeth in the fall of 2014, and so have the cast members who helped bring the program into existence. In particular, Joshua Zambrano, ChiArts ‘14, Jonathon Bellows, BSC ‘14, and Samuela Nematchoua, ChiArts ‘14, have gone on to use the skills learned through CYS in extraordinary ways.
This summer, Joshua, a student at Colorado College, is interning at Driven and Empowered Youth, an organization that pairs tutors and mentors with at-risk youth at local high schools. There he is organizing a summer art program for the students. Joshua’s work this summer echoes back to his time with CYS, when the cast of Macbeth did two shows for students on the South Side of Chicago. After realizing what an impact these performances had on kids, Joshua developed a deep passion for helping younger people. He explains, “I see theater-- not just Shakespeare-- as an avenue to express yourself and find a group of people that share your interests.” He believes this is particularly important for people who come from a similar background as he did growing up. He says, “The neighborhood I grew up in, it’s gang-ridden. I see kids all the time at the neighborhood high schools I work at fall into gangs. You ask them about why that is, and a lot of the time it’s because that’s the only place where they have friends and people who understand where they came from.” Joshua believes that programs like CYS offer an alternative route, “By exposing them to any kind of art, it gives them a different kind of place where they can go and meet these people who might understand them.” Additionally, he continues to showcase his performance skills, both on-screen and onstage in critically acclaimed plays and independent film projects alike.
Jonathon is a finance and economics major at University of Oklahoma, currently working with a law firm over the summer and preparing to be a senior next fall. Though he’s no longer acting onstage, he believes that the skills learned at CYS are still useful on a day-to-day basis. He reasons, “A lot of what you do in the business world, it’s improv and people interaction. CYS helped build those sort of skills.”
Sameula, on the other hand, is pursuing a career in theatre that is deeply rooted in her past with CYS. During the school year, she is a theatre major at Boston College, but for the summer she is working as an Arts Administrative intern at Red Orchid Theatre. She recently had her play Two Face featured in the Boston Theater Marathon this spring. Sameula learned valuable skills from CYS that helped her on this journey. She says, “I learned not to doubt myself and have more confidence in my skill.”
When asked to give advice to the Much Ado About Nothing cast from the inaugural ensemble members, all three had words of wisdom to share: Joshua recognizes that CYS was an important jumping-off point, advising, “Hold onto the connections that you make while you’re in the program-- they’ll lead you to sound advice or better opportunities down the road.” Sameula, in her advice, considers the group as a whole and suggests for the students to “listen and execute.” She points out that “the show isn’t about you, it is about the ensemble and the play.” Jonathon puts it more simply, stating, “Have fun!”
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