AYER – When one thinks of William Shakespeare it might bring back memories of struggling through high school English class, but an upcoming performance will be the opposite of those feelings, it will be hysterical.
On Friday November 17 and Saturday November 18 at 7:30p.m., and Sunday November 19 at 2:00p.m., the Ayer Shirley Regional High School drama club will perform The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged in the high school auditorium.
Tickets can be purchased at the door, and it is $10 for general admission, and $5 for Ayer Shirley Regional School District students.
The plot of the play is a group of enthusiastic Shakespeare fans attempting to perform all 37 of his plays in a single evening, Feigley says, but it ends up being largely unsuccessful.
“They hit quite a few speed bumps along the way,” Ayer Shirley Regional High School Drama Club Advisor and Play Director Desiree Feigley said. “And it is by all definitions a comedy. It’s very silly. We’re actually recommending it for ages 12 and up, because Shakespeare is full of innuendo and violence, things that are not so overt that they would be for a PG-13 rating, but enough that they might not be enjoyable for a really young crowd.”
Some students have more focused roles, while there is some tension amongst the characters, but the main theme is enjoyability and fun. Some might think Shakepeare would be a bit of a dry subject matter, but the purpose of the play is anything but.
“There’s enough Shakepeare in it that you get exposed to it,” Feigley said. “But not so much Shakespeare that it feels unrelatable to a modern audience. It’s a fun kind of bridge, to get Shakespeare in a very low stakes setting.”
“I really do hope that people aren’t intimidated by the fact that it mentions Shakespeare,” Feigley continued. “Most people find Shakespeare very intimidating, and I think our show makes Shakespeare very accessible. It’s an opportunity that most people don’t get in our area, you’ve got to travel pretty far for theater, it’s very expensive, this is a $10 well spent.”
There will be a cast of 13 students performing the play, ranging from all the class ranks at the high school. Auditions for the play took place the second week of school, and students have been perfecting it ever since. The set will be a basic rehearsal box backdrop and a countertop from last year’s musical.
The drama club practices around other activities’ schedules, as most of the students are involved in other activities, whether it be the music program, sports, or other student activities.
“They’ve been really committed despite everything else they have going on,” Feigley said. “Now we’re really excited to put their hard work in front of an audience.”
Feigley says that students learn some valuable skills taking part in theater that translate to other academic endeavors, as well as to their professional careers. One such area is collaboration, where there are few settings where you operate as a team of one.
“This is an ensemble show, some shows have one lead or two leads, but everyone in this show has something to do,” Feigley said. “It teaches responsibility and accountability, because you don’t want to let the team down, they depend on each other. Their ability to come together that way lends a lot of self-confidence.”
At the end of the year the program does a survey, and self-confidence is one of the main skills gained Feigley says, as it takes determination to get on a stage in front of an audience. Creative problem solving is another area students hone, particularly in the Shakespeare performance where there is a lot of improvisation.
“Theater being live, anything can happen at any time,” Feigley said. “Being ready for that, how to roll with that, what do you do, it’s a really interesting line between preparedness and flexibility. There are many elements you can’t control… It teaches you to be solution-oriented and not just stand in the problem.”
The focus for most students in the program isn’t taking a shot at Broadway, but just doing it for enjoyment. Feigley says that trait is better as students aren’t obsessed with perfection, and naturally everyone is better at things when they’re enjoying it.
The drama club features two performances for the public during the school year. The yearly play in November, and the musical in April. The musical is in coordination with the high school’s music department.
Students have educational programming throughout the academic year in the club, including grant funded instruction by outside professionals, a field trip, and workshops.