For Winona Senior High School (WSHS) freshman Emily Perkins, joining the Shakespeare in Schools production of “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar,” during the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) residency at WSHS, was the perfect opportunity to expand her interest in theatre.
Photo by Amelia Wedemeyer
. WSHS student Allison Scott reads for the role of Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.”
“I’m starting to get into acting,” she said of the chance to work on a classic play with experienced GRFS actors. “This was a great opportunity to continue [my interest] and grow as an actor.”
The three-week residency gives WSHS students a chance to immerse themselves in the work of Shakespeare with the help of two professional GRSF actors, Brian White and Stephanie Lambourn, who are co-directing the play. It is an experience not only for those interested in acting, but for students who want to explore Shakespeare in depth and learn about the process of putting together a stage production.
Jacob McMahon, another freshman at WSHS, has gained a respect and an interest in learning and performing Shakespeare, even though he became involved only to fill time between sports seasons.
“For all the people who are on the fence — do it,” McMahon said. “This is fun.”
Shakespeare in Schools
This year’s production of “Julius Caesar” will mark GRSF’s fourth year of collaboration with WSHS. The play was chosen as this year’s Shakespeare in Schools production because of its group scenes and the fact that it is one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies.
“We decided to take on ‘Julius Caesar’ because we have done comedies [in the past] and we thought it would be nice to attempt a tragedy,” Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) grant writer Valerie Williams said. “The play also has great language, speeches, and scenes.”
The production on March 7 will be what White calls a “Reader’s Digest version” of the actual play, but it will cover integral scenes and more importantly, it will give all students involved a chance to participate in several scenes and multiple roles.
“We wanted to do the residency to the fullest,” White explained. “So we’re not telling the full story, but we are doing big ensemble scenes. Everyone is doing at least two scenes.”
Even though the time White and Lambourn have to work with the students is limited — “We do this for three weeks, Monday through Friday for about two-and-a-half hours,” Lambourn noted — the actors devote what time they do have to making sure the students not only memorize the script, but also understand what they are performing.
“I was unsure at first because it is Shakespeare, but it was fun,” Perkins said, adding, “and now I know what everything means.”
To understand the script the students spent the first week with White and Lambourn analyzing the original Shakespearean text, a method which included a read through, transcription with dictionaries, and discussion.
“That was beautiful,” WSHS junior Stephanie Shaw said of the process. “This has been a really fulfilling, joyful experience. We’ve been able to learn about the play through our own thoughts and ideas.”
And it is not just the WSHS students who feel they have gotten more than a few weeks of acting lessons out of the experience. For first-time Shakespeare in Schools teachers, White and Lambourn agree that working with the students has not only been exciting in terms of watching budding actors, but it has also expanded their own perspective on the play.
“It has been inspiring since day one,” White said of the students’ involvement. “It’s been really fulfilling. They are helping us understand the play better and it’s thrilling to see their development.”
Cast members are: Raelynn Peter, Amber Liseno, Addi Sim, Alyse Kamrowski, Shae Alcamo, Susan Miller, Andrew Jones, Caitlin Domeyer, Lauren Callahan, Irene Guillen, Emily Perkins, Kalyn Steele, Lilly Beyer, Allison Scott, Noah Buxengard, Bryan Solberg, Stephanie Shaw, Jacob McMahon
Winona Senior High School and the Great River Shakespeare Festival will present William Shakespeare’s "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar" on Friday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. at WSHS. Everyone in the public is invited to attend the performance.