Rapping With Shakespeare @ Nouveau Cinema

What do you get when you combine Shakespeare and rap? Hope with a capital "H" and inspiration to the students of Crenshaw High School. Emmy award-winner Michael King leads us into the lives of 5 high school students who come from neighborhoods plagued with violence, drugs and poverty. Much like a Shakespearean drama, the concerns and questions these students ask helps give a voice to their hopes and dreams as they draw parallels in their lives with the rap beats of their time.

When English teacher Andy Molnar introduces his teenage students of South Central Los Angeles to the world of Shakespeare, transformation occurs in their lives. It also occurs in Molnar's as well as he professes to his students that he does not know rap. Yet he manages to use the popular hip-hop /rap culture of his students to help them relate to the writings of Shakespeare. Like Henry V, Miles, a young rapper, and Adam, who is a talented basketball player and the only white student. Joanna, like Hamlet, seeks resolve in her dysfunctional family while Estephany and Emmanuel, a modern day Romeo and Juliette, have to deal with the rivalry of their parents. We also hear how students relate to betrayal and "of people putting you down" as one student says for his interpretation of Hamlet. While another student relates figures such as Martin Luther King and Malcom X to Julius Caesar. With all their personal stories and issues, Molnar's students understand that the struggles of characters in Shakespeare are not that different from the experiences of their own generation.

One of the interviews showcased in this feature is with choral director Dr. Iris Stevenson (staff member at Crenshaw) who is an undisputed inspiration to her students. Her energy and dedication undoubtedly comes off the screen as genuine and no wonder because she was the inspiration for Sister Act 2. Her story, along with the other high school staff who are highlighted at Crenshaw High in this feature are examples of how one person can make a positive difference in the lives of others. To anyone who is interested in seeing a positive change in society in action, this documentary will make you believe in the political mantra of our time – "Yes, you can."

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