Thank you for giving us a few minutes to explain our project.
See if you can imagine this:
We have been waiting all summer and counting down the school days until the start of “Shakespeare” (shorthand for our program to bring us to the Fall Festival of Shakespeare.) The day finally arrives when we find out who our directors will be. There are two of them... always someone new and sometimes we've worked with one of them before. The first meeting is electric with excitement and anticipation!
It has begun. Finally.
For the next 3 days there are readings, auditions, group play and all sorts of activities to get us all in the right frame of mind. After all, we are not usually steeped in Elizabethan language for most of the year, and especially not during summer vacation. And the freshmen have never even done this before. As seniors, we are experienced and expected to help teach and lead the group.
It’s not until about the middle of the next week that we learn what play we will be presenting this year. It could be a romance, a comedy, a parody or a tragedy - the directors will make that decision based on who is able to participate this year and what fits best with the skills and the personalities of the troupe. We find out the play and our roles at the same time. Speculation is running wild and the suspense is killing us, but once the list is posted we all know our roles: our responsibilities and what character we will become for the next 2 months. Then the real work begins.
The rehearsals are every day after school and sometimes on the weekends. We travel in a district bus (thank you Board of Ed!) to Lenox, MA to attend common classes 4 different Wednesday evenings over the course of about a month to learn Stage Combat, Performance, Movement and Dance, and Technical Skills like lighting, set building and costumes. Sometimes we have an extra common class on a Saturday in Clowning.
There is dictionary work (we learn what every word in the script means), choreography (which is often fighting, not dancing), sometimes music and always set design, costume design (we often make most of the costumes), lighting and sound engineering for those that are happier behind the scenes. There is truly something for everyone. And our group reflects that.
Most years our Shakespeare program includes more than 10% of our small rural high school student body - everyone from the brains and the nerds, a few of the jocks and some who are just drama kids - always a few who only make it to school just because, if they don’t, they aren’t allowed to participate in Fall Fest.
This program keeps kids in school.
Shakespeare provides an outlet for all kinds of kids - it’s also a home for those who are not comfortable on any other stage or arena. We have a larger percentage of kids participating in this program than any of the sport programs in our school… or any other program for that matter.
There are two performances of our Shakespeare show at Taconic Hills (this year the shows are on 11/9 and 11/10 - both are free of charge - we only ask for donations) and then one week later the TH kids perform at Founders’ Theater at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA. (If you’ve never been to Lenox, you are in for a treat. Great restaurants, great shops, great places to stay: a really quaint but happening town in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.)
Our school has participated in Fall Festival for 10 years. This will be our 11th year if we can get to our goal. Fall Festival of Shakespeare begins in late September and runs through the weekend before Thanksgiving. And with all the fundraising (that's a year-round activity) it’s a full schedule for the fall. At the Festival this year we hope to be one of 10 schools presenting our fantastic production in front of our peers and our friends and families… and our Kickstarter backers. The Festival runs from November 15th through the 18th this year. You will not want to miss it.
Our Shakespeare program is a life changer. Just ask some of us. Please watch our video. There are so many more that have been touched by the magic that is Shakespeare and Fall Festival than what you see here. Imagine 10 years of kids: all changed by what they did during Fall Festival. Please help us make it happen this year.
A little something from the parents:
The Shakespeare program is a favorite of the Taconic Hills High School PTO (a 501(c)(3) organization) and we believe that the benefits of the program cannot be duplicated with any other program. Participation in Fall Festival is expensive but we have already raised about half of what we need. We still have concession stand sales, bake sales and proceeds from our annual 5K (Run for the Bus!) that will figure in before we have to pay for this fall’s program… but we need a big chunk to get us over the hump.
However, the cost of bringing this special brand of "Shakespeare" to our school is (based on our calculation of hours spent in direction, instruction, and overall experience for the kids) a bargain.
We get two directors for about 10 weeks - up to 6 hours a day. We get the expertise and time of professional set designers, lighting designers, sound engineers and costume designers. There are 4 professional workshops each season that bring together 10 different schools for instruction on a wide variety of skills (set/lighting/costume design, stage combat and dance choreography, and acting skills) and provide a great opportunity to meet other kids in our rural but very cultured area. Some of these kids make lifelong friendships from students involved from other schools. And the professional stage performance experience during those 4 days of the Fall Festival in Lenox in front of all the other student participants is unforgettable for the actors and the audience. It is not an understatement to say that each show will bring you to tears or cheers… for sure, you will never forget it.
When a student that has participated in this program describes how it has impacted his/her life you hear that it has changed the way they view themselves, their lives and others that they encounter... without exception. Teachers of the English language and literature curriculum will tell you that it is these students that invariably are the most able and willing to answer the questions posed by higher level study. It is so worth the money in so many ways.
Please consider helping us to reach and even exceed our goal for our kids. You will be rewarded! Photos, posters, tickets to shows, handwritten heart-felt thank yous are all possible - and of course THE SHOW. Please take a look at the list to the right and at our bio where there are some special thank yous. And thanks for taking the time to read through all of this. It means so much to the kids and by extension, so much to us parents. Hope to see you in November!
- (30 days)