Jamestown Native Seeks Actors For Overseas Workshop, Performances In Venice

Ron Song Destro, a Jamestown native and director of the Oxford Shakespeare Company in New York City and London, right, is pictured with award-winning actor Matthew Broderick during one of the theater company’s previous acting workshops. Submitted photo

Ron Song Destro is inviting aspiring actors from Chautauqua County and across the nation on a trip to Italy for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Destro, a Jamestown native and decorated actor in his own right, is planning to take a group of eager actors with his theater company to Venice, Italy, this summer to perform William Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice” in the city of its origin.

Having got his start in acting at a young age through his local involvement with the Lucille Ball Little Theatre and the Shoestring Players, Destro later went on to study with Lucille Ball in Hollywood, and then trained as a Shakespearean actor in London. He received the Kennedy Center Award for his original play “Hiroshima,” a collaboration with composer and singer Yoko Ono, and is now the director of his own theater company, the Oxford Shakespeare Company.

“I started the Oxford Shakespeare Company back in 2009, and after a couple years we started performing some of Shakespeare’s works abroad in places like Hyde Park in London and his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon,” Destro said. “A few years ago, I had this idea that I would hold these performances and corresponding workshops in their historic settings. For the actors who participate, it’s a chance to perform and to learn.”

Destro said the Oxford Shakespeare Company has previously hosted workshops and performances of “Macbeth” Birnham Wood, Scotland, and “Henry V” on the Agincourt battlefied in France.

“This year, I was thinking I’d love to do a trip to Italy. It’s a fun trip and there will be good food,” he said. “We’ll meet on June 8 to begin the workshop, enjoy a nice gondola ride through Venice and then begin our five-day rehearsal workshop before the performances on June 13.”

The submission process for any actors interested in joining the company on its summer Venice excursion consists of contacting Destro with a video audition. Destro said he personally views each video submission and makes a determination on whether the actor would be good at a particular role in the play. If so, he will send the actor a role offer and they will be brought on board.

Once accepted, the actors will pay a fee for the workshop, learn their lines and make arrangements to meet in Venice on June 8. They will be provided training, rehearsals and a special master class, taught by Malcolm McKay, a former instructor from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and then the group will perform the play in its original Italian setting — in the 16th-century Venetian palace of “Belmont,” where the play is set.

Destro said the group will give three back-to-back performances on June 13, as he likes to bring along enough actors along to fill three casting calls.

“We will rehearse from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on each of the five days of the workshop,” he said. “Because there are three separate casts, and not everybody will be needed on every day, there will also be an opportunity for them to do some sightseeing.”

Actors and students interested in performing in Venice should contact Mr Destro at the Oxford Shakespeare Company website at shakespeareclass.org or email destro@OSCtheatre.org.