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CCHS to present Shakespeare in the Park

  • Emily Woodard rehearses the role of Hermia from the Shakespeare comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while Cameron McKenna plays the part of Demetrius. The production will be Friday May 11 and Saturday, May 12 at 6 p.m., with the show beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Riverside Amphitheater in Riverside Park in Charles City. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Joseph Iseneker and Olivia Wolfe rehearse a scene from the upcoming Charles City High School production of Shakespeare in the Park. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob,

Brush up your Shakespeare — the 2018 Charles City High School Spring play is moving outdoors, and fans of the Bard of Avon are sure to enjoy it.

“Shakespeare in the Park,” a series of short vignettes, excerpted from the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare and performed by high school students will be the entertainment this year, at the Riverside Amphitheater in Riverside Park in Charles City.

The event is a departure from the normal for the Charles City High School drama department.

“We thought it would be really cool, to have a unique experience and move it outdoors,” said director Alexis Finder, who added that moving the annual spring play outdoors enabled the drama department to add a few more things to the event, such as a coloring contest and face painting. “We wanted to make it kid-friendly, and we wanted to make it really engaging for the community,” she said.

The dates of the show are Friday May 11 and Saturday, May 12 at 6 p.m., with the show beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Finder acknowledged that there is a risk involved with planning an outdoor show — there is no guarantee the weather will cooperate, so there is a back-up plan. In the case of bad weather, “Shakespeare in the Park” will become “Shakespeare in the Church” — as the event will be moved inside to Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City.

“We have students who are very familiar with Shakespeare, and with speech in general,” Finder said. “We wanted to take them and go a little bit deeper and provide new opportunities.”

The show will feature scenes and sonnets from a variety of Shakespeare’s work, including A Midsummer Nights Dream, Comedy of Errors, Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Richard III, Richard II, Othello, Henry V and more.

“We’re doing a combination of different scenes from multiple Shakespeare plays,” said student-actor Olivia Wolfe, who will be playing the role of Queen Titania, queen of the fairies, and also the role of Helena, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “This isn’t traditionally what we do, we usually just do a regular show in the spring.”

The different scenes were put together by assistant director Mike Lembke.

“Mike Lembke is a great resource, he has a lot of experience with Shakespeare and Renaissance in general, so he has been a big influential part of picking different pieces and tying them all together,” said Finder.

Cameron McKenna, who will be performing both as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the title character in King Richard II, believes he’s up to the challenge of Shakespeare.

“It’s definitely challenging, learning and memorizing the Shakespearian language, but I’ve personally had a lot of fun with it,” he said. “It’s going to be very interesting, because we’ve never done anything like this, but it seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Student-actor Joseph Iseneker never considered doing Shakespeare in a full-length production, but he has warmed up to the idea of Shakespeare in the Park.

“We’ve done some Shakespeare in speech and drama before, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Iseneker will play the roles of the donkey-faced Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as the title villain in Richard III, previously the Duke of Gloucester.

“I’m really excited to be doing it out in the amphitheater this year,” he said.

Finder said the actors are responding and embracing the roles.

“These students cling to it really well. I think at first they were a little bit overwhelmed, with the wording,” she said. “But once they understand the language of Shakespeare, they notice the humor behind it.”

She added that performing Shakespeare can also be a positive line item on a drama student’s portfolio.

“This will be good for the students applying for colleges as well. If they want to be involved in drama in college, you typically need a big monologue,” Finder said. “They can use this for college auditions and take it with them further.”

Finder is hopeful the community will respond.

“This is going to be a play they have never seen before, but it’s something I think they will truly love and hold dear to their heart,” she said.

Students participating in Shakespeare in the Park include Kristin George, Assistant Stage Manager/Desdemona; Brian Feres, Henry V Prologue; Carter West, Oberon; Ryan Wolfe, Student Director/Hamlet /Petruchio; Joe Iseneker, Bottom/Richard III; Ruby Petersen, Puck/Polonius; Ashlyn Bauer, Kate/Queen Mab/Fairy/Emilia; Eliza Wolford, Juliet/Fairy; Olivia Wolfe, Titania/Hermia; McKenna Oleson, Fairy/Antipholus; Emily Woodard, Hermia; Lily Woodard , “Shall I compare the …”; Cameron McKenna, Demetrius/Richard II; Aaron Montemayor, Lysander; Jacob Hallett, Dromeo; Gillian King, House Manager/Fairy.