Shakespearience!: Teens spend summer with the bard
By ELIZABETH BENZ NeXt Correspondent
Updated: 07/23/08 11:17 AM
Shakespeare: every high school English student is familiar with at least one of his works. Some dread the unit, while others appreciate the Bard’s skill with words.
“Ever since I was little, my parents would take me to see this. When I was about eight or something, we got here in time to see the intern show and I just went ‘I wanna do that, I wanna do that,’ and as soon as I could I applied,” said Chloe Fischer, 16, a three-year veteran of the Shakespeare in Delaware Park intern program.
Shakespearience, as it is called, is an opportunity for area high school students to get hands-on theater experience as stage crew members. The interns work side by side with the actors and stage crew in actual productions of Shakespeare in the Park. This unique arrangement is not lost on the interns.
“I think it’s really important that if you’re going to be involved in theater, that you understand all aspects of the theater, not just acting,” said Rita Sirianni, who will be a junior at Nardin Academy in the fall.
Shakespearience runs in two four-week sessions that correspond with the productions, one from the end of June to the middle of July, and one from the end of July to the middle of August.
“I learned that a lot of the onstage stuff is really dependent on the set and how things are set,” said Alex Zlateff, who will be a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Collegiate in the fall.
The duties range from moving scenery and opening doors to rescuing the equipment when it rains.
“Like everyone else, I’m backstage. I am considered a ‘Gloucester Girl,’ as I run the Gloucester banners that go up and down,” said Chloe.
But not all the work is behind the scenes.
“They get an opportunity to take classes in acting and in period dance, combat and in all sorts of different things with professionals in the area,” said Kyle LoConti, the production stage manager for Shakespeare in Delaware Park.
The typical day starts at 1:30 with classes and rehearsals. There is a dinner break, then the show, which ends around 11 p. m. The performance runs six days a week. “It’s a lot of work, that’s why we interview the kids before the program starts and then select the ones that we think can make it through the whole program, it’s very arduous,” said Beth Donahue, the head instructor for Shakespearience.
But all the time and dedication pays off. At the end of the festival, the interns put on their own production as a pre-show. For this session, it was the comedy “As You Like It.”
“He’s this lord who gets banished to the forest and totally embraces it and takes on this whole ‘I am the walrus’ essence and goes hippie,” said Rita of her character, Duke Senior, who also plays the roles of Oliver and Corin.
“I do get really bad stage fright, though, I usually have to start tap-dancing or something to get the jitters out,” said Rita.
“I’ve learned to be a better actress. It’s easier for me to learn and remember lines, and I know a lot more about Shakespeare,” said Chloe.
As Jaques in this year’s initial offering, “King Lear,” says. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” For these interns, their world really is a stage and they are much more than mere players.
Elizabeth Benz will be a junior at Lancaster High School.