Every year students in language arts classes are assigned the reading of something written by William Shakespeare. For the novice reader, the language and context of those plays and sonnets can be a bit overwhelming.
That scenario is the premise of the Redwood Valley High School three-act play, which is being presented the end of this week.
The production is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Nancy Linehan Charles. It is being produced in special arrangement with The Dramatic Publishing Company of Woodstock, Ill.
The basic plot line of the play is a class of students is studying for an upcoming test on the play, and, like typical teenagers, most of them have no clue how to do that.
So, through the acting out of the play they prepare for the test. However, the presentation, as it is an adaptation, does not follow the play in exact detail as it was originally presented by William Shakespeare.
According to Whitney Hegg, the adult director of the performance, there are 35 students who are participating in this year’s production, including the cast and crew. That group, she added, is made up of a variety of students from Grades 9-12 who come from various walks of life.
“This is the students’ performance,” said Hegg, adding she serves as the guide as the play is put together and then presented to the public.
There are three storytellers who serve to narrate the play as presented by the teens.
"There are some original lines in the adaptation the students are performing,” said Hegg, adding, however those storytellers also serve as translators to guide the audience in understanding what is actually taking place onstage.
The three storytellers for the presentation are Tess Munshower (Jessie), Esther Schmieg (Kaytlin) and Audrey Munshower (Anna).
Other members of the cast include Mara Lund as Hermia, Rose Frank as Helena, Justus Probst as Lysander, Leo Steffl as Demetrius, Spencer Quast as Bottom, Abby Gilk as Quince, Makale Prescott as Flute, Mariah Frank as Snout, Rachel Anderson as Snug, Justene Larsen as Starveling, Brian Bucholz as Oberon, Madisen Clennon as Titania, Lexy Nelson as Puck, Jenny Vang as Peaseblossom, Keelie VanHee as Cobweb, Isabel Hillestad as Mustardseed, Shyla Burg, Trinity Milne, Ivis Robertson, Kate Kahnke, Hannah Clennon and Mikayla Nemitz.
The crew includes Amos Krause, Miriam Krause, Chalese Rohne, Aubrie Milhausen, Jenna Whitmore, Samantha Lydick, Emily Benson, Maddie Hicks, Jasmine Fisher and Payden Beran.
According to Hegg, the selection of a Shakespearean adaptation was intentional, as students are required based on state standards to read at least two plays written by Shakespeare during their time in high school. This helps those students to connect what they are reading with an actual performance of that play – or an adaptation of it.
Hegg said it is a comedy, adding she feels that genre of presentation best fits with the students, as they feel a closer connection with it because of its comedic nature.
“All of the students in this play are amazing,” said Hegg, adding she is always impressed with how they balance their very busy lives still making room in their schedules for homework, after school sports and other activities along with performing arts.
Hegg also said she has always been very impressed with how accepting those students are of newcomers, and this year there are a lot of new students involved in the play.
“These kids are all very creative,” said Hegg. “I love it when they take the initiative to offer ideas about how they think we should do something to make the play better.”
The rehearsals continue for the next couple of days, as the final pieces are put together in advance of the performances scheduled for the end of the week.
For Tess Munshower, this is her seventh performance, including three-acts, musicals and one-acts, as a high-school student. Munshower said she joined in ninth grade based on an older sister’s involvement in theater. She has discovered the performing arts to be something she really enjoys, which has kept her involved over the years.
“I like being with my friends on the stage,” said Munshower, adding theater has been a great experience for her. “I just love the energy of being part of a play. It really helped get me out of my shell.”
Munshower said the theatrical troupe form RVHS has been working very hard since mid-September on this year’s production.
Madisen Clennon, who said she has been involved in theater since she was in elementary school, enjoys the opportunity she has been given to meet new people through this activity.
She added it has helped to take her out of her comfort zone, too. Clennon, who has been involved in six performances, encouraged the public to come and watch this years presentation.
The performances are scheduled for Nov. 9-11 in the Redwood Valley schools PAC, with the curtain set to open at 7 p.m. each night. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for students.