Large cast ready for 'Shakespeare'
Posted on: Nov 13, 2018
One of the most notable features of the upcoming fall play at Delano High School is the large proportion of performers who are taking the stage for the first time.
Around 50 cast members and 15 crew members will present “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]” at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 15-17, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18. Click here for tickets.
Director Joe Lawrence, who has an extensive professional and amateur theater background but is heading up the DHS fall play for the first time, has made a point of recruiting new students to the show, and a varied rehearsal schedule has allowed athletes to get involved as well.
“This year Lawrence is making an effort to make sure theater isn’t cut off to kids who want to try it. So he’s having people who are busy with sports and who are busy with other things, and maybe have not had the confidence to do a play before, come out and try it,” said senior Lydia Ramstad, a member of the tennis team who plays the role of a rapping Othello and a puppet master who tries to fit all of Shakespeare’s productions into one 90-minute show. “He’s made it a really great and welcoming environment and it’s really fun, no matter what part you have.”
Garrett Robinson, a senior soccer player, said he wanted to be in plays ever since seventh grade, but was never able to participate because of conflicting schedules. After thoroughly enjoying his debut performance as a member of Lawrence’s Theatre Arts class last spring, however, he made a point to sign up for this year’s fall play.
“That schedule change really helped me out,” he said. “I had so much fun with it last year. I saw how Mr. Lawrence treats everybody. He wrote that play, so I got to see how he worked, and I knew it was going to be good this year.”
Like a coach who sees the potential for students to succeed in athletics, students said Lawrence actively sought out students to try theater for the first time.
“He’d come and sit next to you at lunch and say, ‘Moonen, did you sign up?’ said junior Claire Moonen, a tennis player who was pleased to announce that she has 14 words across a variety of roles in the upcoming production.
Junior Emma Dahle recognized that foresight and how well it is playing out in rehearsal.
“He talked to people every day, because he knows who will be good at each part. He has a vision in his head before it even starts coming together,” she said. “A lot of people he recruits aren’t used to being in plays, but when they get there you know they’re perfect for it.”
Ramstad, along with up to half the cast members who have little prior acting experience, found Lawrence convincing.
“I think I’ve always kind of wanted to do it but been way too scared. But Lawrence has gone way out of his way, to almost every student, and told them what’s special about them and why they should come to the play. And something about him is so encouraging. He’s encouraged so many people who never would have done it on their own to come, because he made them feel like they were able to do it and they had something special to bring,” she said.
Stepping right in
While some of the actors may be short on experience, they are not lacking in skill.
“There are a lot of newbies. Good ones,” said Lawrence. “Some of them blew it out of the water in auditions and continue to impress people. For having never done it before, they take direction really well. Some of them are playing major roles, and it’s their first show. It’s pretty exciting and cool to see.”
Robinson is one of those with a large role, and said that participation in theater has the benefit of producing poise.
“Public speaking is one of the biggest phobias,” he said. “People would rather die than go up and talk in front of people. I think this gets you in a comfort zone where you can not only perform, but also just talk in front of a large group of people. This is a great way to practice that for your job or just for personal gain.”
Aside from that benefit, Dahle said this particular madcap production is simply a lot of fun.
“I literally find myself laughing out loud backstage because it’s just so funny,” she said.
Plenty of liberties have been taken with the script, and the students’ fingerprints are all over the characters and their dialogue.
“It’s really cool how we can put our ideas together, and if someone says a new line in rehearsal that is funny or works well, Lawrence is willing to change the script and put it in there,” said Robinson. “He wants us to take the characters and make them our own.”
The play is based on improvisation, and that has shaped the production to this point.
“Lawrence will just cut out lines and put in funny stuff that happens during practice,” said Dahle. “He’s just so excited to let us be a part of making it.”
Moonen said the most enjoyable thing for her is seeing classmates who she never spoke with stepping out into goofy roles and excelling.
Aside from finding costumes for so many actors, a challenge has been working with flexible schedules that keep various cast members away from rehearsals on a regular basis. Fortunately, it works to segment the show into short rehearsal times when the right actors are available – and sometimes even when they are not.
“As things come up we work around it. I have kids ready to go because the cast is so big,” said Lawrence. “If somebody doesn’t show up for rehearsals I just recast it if I have to. One person gone doesn’t mean we can’t do a scene. The show must go on, and it does.”
Lawrence was pleased with how preparations were progressing this week, and said he was looking forward to the performance dates.
“We’re hoping people come out and enjoy it,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
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