Preview article by Gail M. Burns, November 2003.
For the fourth consecutive year, Chatham High will be participating in Shakespeare & Company’s nationally acclaimed Fall Festival of Shakespeare.
This year Shakespeare & Company artists Jennie Burkhard and Stephen Anderson are directing an enthusiastic cast of 9th-12th graders at Chatham High in a 90-minute adaptation of The Comedy of Errors. Chatham is one of nine area high schools participating in this 15th Annual Fall Festival. The only other Columbia County school is Taconic Hills High School, which will present Henry V.
Gail Giles, the parent liaison with Shakespeare & Company, is still involved even now that her own daughter, Hannah, is in college. “It’s a credit to Chatham Central School District Superintendent Marilyn Barry and the Chatham Board of Education that they continue to support this exciting program.” Giles said, “This year we’ve had generous funding from our community and were able to add a curriculum component to the ten-week residency where Shakespeare & Company artists worked in collaboration with Chatham High 9th and 10th grade English teachers.”
Reaching further into the school community, student artists presented a summary of the show to Mary E. Dardess Elementary School 4th graders, and 8th graders from the Chatham Middle School will attend the in-school performance on November 15.
“Being a part of the Fall Festival has changed the whole culture of the school.” Giles continued, “The kids own this production in a way that they don’t have a chance to with other community productions.”
“It is a really unique experience to get to work with professional actors and directors who present you with new ways of being yourself. Some of what you discover is really intense and so is really beautiful,” said 10th grader Pippa Roup-Kounovski of Spencertown, who appears this year as Antipholus of Ephesus, “Shakespeare’s words transcend time and place and get to the heart of what it is to be human.”
“I have never met a Shakepeare & Company director I wasn’t totally in love with,” said junior Lydia Barnett-Mulligan of Chatham, who played the title role in the Chatham High production of Hamlet last year and will be seen as Adriana this year. “They invite you to find where you meet your character, and I find that that changes how I approach my role from day to day.”
Senior Brendan O’Connell of Spencertown, who is participating in his third Fall Festival as Dromio of Ephesus said, “This is a fun place to be. I find that this is a very different approach to a different kind of acting than I get in other productions.”
Compared with last year’s production of Hamlet, the students are finding the broad physical comedy of The Comedy of Errors to be a new challenge. “We find that the tragedies are more comical than the comedies,” Roup-Kounovksi explained, “ Last year we did the Comedy of Hamlet and this year we are doing the Tragedy of Errors.”
As Superintendent Barry said, “It says something very flattering about our district, I think, to realize that for a significant portion of our student population, Shakespeare rocks.”
The Comedy of Errors will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 14 and Saturday, November 15 at Chatham High School, and then again at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 23 at the Founders’ Theatre on the Shakespeare & Company campus on Kemble Street in Lenox as part of the Festival weekend. Other shows in the Festival this year include Taconic High School’s Richard II, Lenox Memorial High School’s The Tempest, Lee High School’s Much Ado About Nothing, Monument Mountain Regional High School’s Hamlet, Mt. Everett Regional High School’s As You Like It, Springfield Central High School’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mt. Greylock Regional High School’s Twelfth Night, and Taconic Hills High School’s Henry V.
Call Chatham High at 518-392-2400 for tickets and information about the November 14 & 15 performances. Tickets for performances at the high school are $5 adults, $3 students. Call the Education Department at Shakespeare & Company 413-637-1199, ext 316, for tickets and a performance schedule for the Fall Festival Weekend, held November 20-23 at in the Founder’s Theatre on their campus at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox, Massachusetts. Festival tickets are $7 per performance or $25 for a Festival Pass. The Pass includes all nine plays.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 2003