Doug: This week, we’ve given the Great River Guys column over to the teachers of our residency, GRSF Company members Brian White and Stephanie Lambourn. Take it away, guys.
Brian White: This Friday is the culmination of the three-week Shakespeare in the Schools Residency at Winona and Cotter High Schools. GRSF company members Stephanie Lambourn and I have been working at both schools to enrich the students’ understanding of Shakespeare. At Cotter, the students are taking an in-depth look at scenes in “Macbeth.” They are analyzing the text and putting the scenes on their feet to help discover the life of the play.
Meanwhile, at Winona Senior High School, a group of 18 students are putting on a production of “Julius Caesar.” They have been working during two-and-a-half-hour sessions, every day, after school, Monday through Friday, for three weeks. There are professional actors who would balk at the idea of putting up “Julius Caesar” in that short amount of time, but the actors at Winona High have jumped in headfirst and haven’t looked back since. And professional actors don’t have finals to worry about.
The end of every session brings a discussion. Every young actor says something they learned or noticed or poses a question to think about for the next day. Stephanie and I asked if they could share some of their thoughts for this article. Susan Miller, Lauren Callahan, Irene Guillen, Andrew Jones, Addi Sim, Shae Alcamo, Alyse Kamrowski, Raelynn Peter, Emily Perkins, Lilly Beyer, Jacob McMahon, Bryan Solberg, Kalyn Steele, Caitlin Domeyer, Noah Buxengard, Stephanie Shaw, Amber Liseno, and Allison Scott said yes.
Brian White: Why did you guys want to do this residency?
Andrew: The reason I like to do Shakespeare is I like to delve deeper into greater things. I love to learn.
Raelyn: I really like doing Shakespeare, like this, where you do the one play but have a lot of people playing different characters because not only do you get to learn about a specific character, but you get to learn about many characters and how they feel in a specific scene; you get to talk to the other people and get to hear what they think instead of just you deciding.
Brian: We’re two-thirds of the way through our process. What have you learned so far?
Shae: I think a lot of us have learned how in-depth you can go in your script and how much you can analyze certain characters and each and every word they say and the purpose of it.
Addi: Focusing on and using the antithesis. I think my other theatre performances will be better from that, now that I’ve had experience focusing on how other words relate to each other and how they form the sentence.
Brian: Would you guys do this again?
All: (Immediately) Yes! Yeah! Definitely.
Stephanie: It’s a really good three weeks to learn so much about Shakespeare and the English language and your own acting abilities, and getting closer to a whole group of people.
Emily: It’s amazing to see how much we actually get done in that short amount of time and that we’re actually able to put on a show toward the end.
Addi: I love how this experience brings a lot of people who wouldn’t necessarily be theatre people or drama people. You know, who wouldn’t — people who are sports people but Shakespeare is one of their other hobbies…it draws in a diverse crowd.
Stephanie Lambourn: Are there any plays you would like to do in the future?
Raelyn: The Scottish Play.
Lauren: Yes, please.
Andrew: I’ve always had an affinity for “Twelfth Night.”
Emily: I just like tragedies.
Stephanie: I think doing a history would be fun because I haven’t been exposed to any of the histories.
Brian: The actors finished their discussion and went forth to have a peaceful and productive day. Their weekend was full of studying for finals and finishing memorizing lines. There is a passion in these young actors and a hunger for future challenges. They are doing some truly incredible work at Winona High School.
Thanks to Valerie Williams at Winona High School and Mike Costello at Cotter High School who teach these students all year long. Their passion comes through in their students, and we are grateful that they invited us into their classrooms.
The students’ performance of Julius Caesar goes up this Friday, March 7, at 7 p.m. at Winona High School. Tickets are available at the door. Macbeth performs next week.
Thank you to Laurie Lucas and the Laird Norton Family Foundation for making the residency possible.