Targeted less to literature students than to followers of “Top Chef” and “Survivor,” “Shakespeare High” explores the 90th annual Drama Teachers Assn. of Southern California Shakespeare Festival and proves, depressingly enough, that even the Bard can be reduced to a competition. Alex Rotaru’s very busy docu focuses more on the kids’ stories than on their work; considering how sensational some of them are, it’s probably a strategic advantage. Edu-circuit will eat the pic up; star power should shoehorn it onto cable.All the problems of a Bard-off are addressed. One particularly gifted young actress, Marisa Gold, admits she doesn’t quite agree with the philosophy of the festival; a few participating teachers ask whether the eight-minute performances, some of which resemble circus acts, have much to do with acting or Shakespeare. Admittedly, the festival has produced such alums as Kevin Spacey, Mare Winningham and Richard Dreyfuss (all of whom appear here), and isn’t following anyone’s lead. But Spacey sums it all up when he links the trophy he won at DTASC with his Oscar. It’s all about prizes.
A Cinema Guild release of an Ifavor Entertainment and Trigger Street presentation. Produced by Alex Rotaru, Brad Koepenick, Lori Miller, Ronnie Planalp. Executive producers, Kevin Spacey, Dana Brunetti, Dean Devlin, Eugen Rotaru. Co-producer, Brian O'Connell. Directed by Alex Rotaru.
Camera (color), Brian O'Connell; editor, Drew Kilcoin; music, Nathaniel Blume. Reviewed at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, New York, March 9, 2012. Running time: 91 MIN.
Kevin Spacey, Mare Winningham, Val Kilmer, Richard Dreyfuss, Marisa Gold, Luis Cardenas, Sue Freitag.