Preview article by Gail M. Burns, November, 1999

Students from McCann and Mt. Greylock have given up their afternoons and evenings for the past two months to rehearse the 90 minute versions of Shakespeare that they will be presenting at Shakespeare & Company’s 11th annual Fall Festival of Shakespeare. They are among 650 students from eight Berkshire County high schools, along with one school each in Hampshire and Hampden counties, who are participating this year. Each school presents their show on their home stage this coming weekend, and at the Festival at Berkshire Community College November 18-21.

This year McCann is presenting “The Taming of the Shrew” at Adams Memorial Middle School November 12 & 13 at 8 PM, while Mt. Greylock is mounting the Bard’s seldom seen romance “The Winter’s Tale” November 11-13 at 8 PM in their own auditorium. Mt. Greylock is performing November 18 at 8:30 PM, and McCann is performing November 19 at 6:30 PM during the Festival at BCC.

“This is a wonderful creative outlet for the students in the midst of their vocational cirriculum at McCann,” said co-director Celia Madeoy, who explained that the play is being taught in the classroom to all McCann students, “The concept of this production comes from the students who have decided to give it a high energy spaghetti western theme presented within the framework of a 1940’s U.S.O. show. We have Rose the Riveter on our poster.”

Tom Lesure, a 15 year old sophomore from North Adams is enjoying his first “acting gig” as Christopher Sly, the drunken tinker for whom the play is performed. “Taming of the Shrew” is not often performed in its original play-within-a-play format. Lesure’s character stays on stage as the “audience” throughout.

“Ours will be a strong powerful performance of this play. Its not just a comedy show,” said Caroline Wright, a sophomore from Williamstown who plays Bianca, “We deliver a real message about the changes in life and the power of women.”

While the McCann cast has the challenge of dealing with the misogyny of “Shrew”, over at Mt. Greylock the cast has to wrestle with bringing one of Shakespeare lesser known plays and more convoluted plots to life. When people think of “Winter’s Tale” at all they remember the stage direction “Exit, chased by a bear” and the moment at the end of the play when a statue comes to life. The bear has been cut in this 90 minute version, but the statue of Hermione will once again provide the penultimate happy ending.

Student actors promised the audience a funny and personal production which is guaranteed to be jam packed with sex, confusion, excitment, and sordid mistaken love affairs.

Co-director Ben Lambert explained his less-sensational take on this later work of the Bard, “‘Winter’s Tale’ is the only one of Shakespeare’s plays which shows the entire life cycle. It goes two acts past where the tragedies go, all the way to reconcilliation and forgiveness,” he said, “These students have met the challenge of finding the aspects of this play that express what they believe in, and they have done it using 400 year old language.”

Student actors are selling raffle tickets at $5 a piece or three for $10 from now until the drawing November 21. There are a wide range of prizes donated by businesses across western Massachusetts, and ticket holders are eligible to win more than one prize. If you want to support the Festival by buying a raffle ticket, but don’t know any of the actors, call Mark Woollett at Shakespeare & Company, 413-637-1199, ext 131.

Other shows in this year’s festival include: “King Henry IV, Part I” (Lee HS); “Much Ado About Nothing” (Taconic HS); “The Comedy of Errors” (Northampton & Smith Vocational HS); “Antony and Cleopatra” (Springfield Central HS); “Romeo and Juliet” (Monument Mountain HS); “Othello” (Lenox Memorial HS); and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Mt. Everett Regional HS). Tickets are $5 per performance, or $15 for a full four day pass. Call Shakespeare & Company at 413-637-1199, ext 106 to find out more about the Fall Festival of Shakespeare in the Robert Boland Theatre on the Berkshire Community College campus in Pittsfield November 18-21.

Tickets for the performances at the schools are sold at the door and prices may vary. Call McCann at 413-663-5383 for tickets and information about “The Taming of the Shrew” at Adams Memorial Middle School November 12 & 13 at 8 PM. Call Mt. Greylock Regional High School at 413-458-9582 for tickets and information their production of “The Winter’s Tale” November 11-13 at 8 PM.

copyright Gail M. Burns, 1999

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