BY CHRISTINE LEE
POTTSVILLE — High school students will bring the works of William Shakespeare to life this weekend at the Majestic Theater.
The third Shakespeare Festival will take place Saturday at the theater on Centre Street with three performances of the author’s works.
Schuylkill County Council for the Arts Executive Director Emily Ehlinger will direct Schuylkill Haven Area High School’s production of “Henry IV” and the Nativity BVM High School production of “Twelfth Night.” Pottsville Area High School students will stage “The Taming of the Shrew,” directed by English teacher Maria Malek.
The Schuylkill Haven Area High School play will be performed at noon, Pottsville Area production will be at 3 p.m. and the Nativity BVM play will be staged at 6 p.m.
Majestic Theater Executive Director Lisa Gillespie said Tuesday there’s a benefit to introducing children to the playwright’s works through the performances.
“The younger you are exposed to Shakespeare, the less intimidating it is,” she said.
Students in the productions of “Twelfth Night” and “The Taming of the Shrew” will perform abridged versions of the plays. Part I of “Henry IV” will be staged.
Gillespie said while “Henry IV” isn’t as popular to perform as “Twelfth Night” and “The Taming of the Shrew,” the play has action.
“It has sword fighting,” she said.
Malek is directing 17 students in her Introductory Drama I class in her production. She said the majority of the students will be on stage for the first time. Unlike the original play’s setting of an English countryside, the Pottsville Area High School production will take place in the Wild West.
“We have incorporated some ‘insult showdowns’ and country line dancing to add a unique flair,” she said in an email.
The festival isn’t the only time audiences can see Shakespeare’s work at the theater. Every fall, children ages 6 to 16 participate in Kids’ Shakespeare. Last October, they performed an abridged version of “Macbeth.”
Ehlinger, who is directing between 12 and 15 students in each of her productions, said the festival is a “celebration of kids and vigorous education in action.
“It’s a different type of educational experience,” she said.
By performing Shakespeare’s works on stage, Ehlinger said students absorb the author’s verse and prose, and feel the character’s emotions.
“As the play moves forward, you feel that sense of purpose,” she said.
Festival tickets are $10 and proceeds benefit the nonprofit Schuylkill Free Shakespeare, which puts on free performances of Shakespeare’s work to the public. They are available by calling 570-628-2833.