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Midvale Journal

Midvale Middle School students explore Shakespeare’s words in ‘Much Ado About Will’

Nov 06, 2018 04:10PM ● By Jana Klopsch

By Julie Slama|[email protected]

This month, about 40 Midvale Middle School students will immerse themselves in the world of Shakespeare as they perform “Much Ado About Will.”

The play, which features parts from several of William Shakespeare’s plays, including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Tempest,” “Macbeth,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Romeo and Juliet,” will take place at 6 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 8. The family-friendly production is free to the community.

“‘Much Ado About Will’ is a celebration of the words of Shakespeare,” said Bethanne Lenhart, Midvale Middle theatre teacher and play director. “It introduces the audience to a variety of Shakespeare's most famous and notable works. Through the play’s narration, the audience will learn about different devises such as play-within-a-play, mistaken identity and letters that give a wonderful twist and enjoyable plot lines.”

 The show was cast from seventh- and eighth-grade students from the Play Production and Tech Theater classes. 

“I picked ‘Much Ado About Will’ to help introduce my students to a variety of Shakespeare. This play was appealing because it gives variety that allowed me to cast each student in an ideal role that will feature them and their strengths as an actor. Each student gets a chance to hold center stage and have their moment to really capture the audience,” she said.

Students also worked together to create their own blocking, which Lenhart oversaw.

“I'm really proud of what the students came up with. They applied all the previous lessons … to come up with some effective and creative, yet natural staging,” she said. 

Lenhart believes that middle school students prosper from studying Shakespeare.

“Shakespeare seems intimidating at first, but once students get a feel for the language they learn to love it. I've seen some of the strongest characterization and committed performances come from students who find Shakespeare thrilling to perform. His characters are iconic, but lend themselves to the craftsmanship of an actor who learned to make strong and entertaining performance choices,” she said.

Rehearsals started in mid-September, after Lenhart provided introductory lessons to Shakespeare and the students auditioned for parts.

“I love watching them get caught up in a scene and drop into their character the way they do with Shakespeare,” she said.

She estimates students have dedicated 30 hours of rehearsal time as well as additional time students spend on memorization or practicing on their own time.

“I am proud to see their growth in performance as a teacher and excited to see the final product,” she said. “Lastly, the stories of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ ‘As You Like It’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ are just plain fun to play.”

Midvale Middle School also will have a March production, “The Little Prince.” 

“‘The Little Prince’ was selected to explore the fantasy and fairytale genre. It will be a great contrast to last year's productions of the Greek tragedy, ‘Antigone,’ and ‘Shuddersome Tales of Poe,’” she said. “I hope to send students to high school with a well-rounded experience of performance in a variety of genres.”