Preview article by Gail M. Burns, November 2003.
It has become an autumn tradition for Mt. Greylock Regional High School to mount a Shakespearean production, and for many years now those shows have been produced under the aegis of Shakespeare & Company as a part of their Fall Festival of Shakespeare. This year students from Mt. Greylock will be performing a 90-minute version of Twelfth Night as one of nine area high schools participating in the 2003 Fall Festival.
Jonathan Croy and Tracy Kinney are directing an enthusiastic cast of 7th-12th graders in at Mt. Greylock, many of whom have been participating in the Fall Festival for many years. Senior Gideon Bradburd of Williamstown is cast as the tragi-comic Malvolio, seven years after his sister Rebecca appeared in the same play on the same stage as Feste. This is Bradburd’s fifth Shakespearean production, having performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry VI, Part I, As You Like It, and The Winter’s Tale.
“This is the most inspiring extra-curricular activity I can think of,” Bradburd said, “Nationally so few kids our age are into Shakespeare, and locally so many are because of this program.”
The students are unanimous in crediting the directors and the philosophy of the Shakespeare & Company education program for their dedication to the Fall Festival.
“The directors ask you what your character would say and how they are thinking and feeling during each line,” explained 9th grader Vanessa Dion of Lanesborough, “You get to put a lot of yourself into your role.” This is Dion’s third Fall Festival production, and she is enjoying bossing around “lots of really tall officers” as the Chief Officer of the Guard in Twelfth Night.
9th grader Tess McHugh of Williamstown, who is playing Antonia the Pirate in this her third Mt. Greylock Shakespeare production, said that she returns each year for the sense of community fostered by the directors. “The directors really let us do our own thing. And the costumes this year are awesome.”
“Of the three annual productions here at Mt. Greylock, the Shakespeare show is the only one we students really have creative control of,” Senior Amanda Bell of Williamstown, who is starring as Viola in Twelfth Night, explained. “It makes the rehearsal process so much more playful.”
Bell is set to make her directorial debut with the Mt. Greylock spring play this year, possibly a production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. “I hope that when I direct I can empower my actors the way the Shakespeare & Company folks do for us,” she said.
Several students have been inspired by their Fall Festival experience to participate in other Shakespeare & Company educational programs. McHugh has been a part of the Riotous Youth summer program, and 10th grader Amy Mendes of Hancock took part in Shakespeare & Young Company and the Spring Festival of Shakespeare. Both those programs take place on the ShakesCo campus in Lenox, and so require not only an enthusiastic student but either equally dedicated parents willing to drive, or ones laid-back enough to allow their teenaged driver to make the commute.
“My experiences with the Fall Festival have just opened up so many other opportunities for me,” said Mendes, who is appearing as Olivia in Twelfth Night, her fourth Shakespeare production at Mt. Greylock.
All the students consider Twelfth Night a denser and more complicated comedy than A Midsummer Night’s Dream, their 2002 production.
“This is a really difficult play,” Bell remarked, “It is a comedy, but there is much in it that is really very dark. For my character, in the last scene, the man that she loves tells her that he wants to marry her, but he doesn’t know she is a woman. There is a lot of conflict there.”
“It is as if Shakespeare were experimenting with taking comedy to its limit,” Bradburd said, “I find Malvolio a more challenging role than the one I played last year which was straight comedy, because he is not the funny part of the play.”
“My part is really sad in the beginning, when Olivia is in mourning,” Mendes explained, “But then once she falls in love with Viola disguised as the boy Cesario it just gets to be so much fun.”
Twelfth Night will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 13 and Friday, November 14 at Mt. Greylock, and then again at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, November 21 at the Founders’ Theatre on the Shakespeare & Company campus on Plunkett Street in Lenox as part of the Festival weekend. Other shows in the Festival this year include Taconic High School’s Richard II, Lenox Memorial High School’s The Tempest, Lee High School’s Much Ado About Nothing, Monument Mountain Regional High School’s Hamlet, Mt. Everett Regional High School’s As You Like It, Springfield Central High School’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Chatham High School’s The Comedy of Errors, and Taconic Hills High School’s Henry V.
Call Mt. Greylock at 413-458-8592 for tickets and information about the November 13 & 14 performances. Call the Education Department at Shakespeare & Company 413-637-1199, ext 316, for tickets and a performance schedule for the Fall Festival Weekend, held November 20-23 at in the Founder’s Theatre at Shakespeare & Company’s campus at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2003