Thursday, October 31, 2013

Team Yorick Takes Utah by Storm

By Jennifer Adams

This past October, twelve members of the Young Company traveled to Utah for the Utah High School Shakespeare Competition. This is First Stage's seventh year participating in the competition and learning experience and these students shave a lot to say about it!

“What’s better than Shakespeare in the mountains?” said Kiaran Hartnett. “You are surrounded by people who love Shakespeare and you spend your time living and breathing it, whether you’re seeing a show, rehearsing, watching other groups perform, competing or making dorky jokes with your teammates. I left this trip with countless memories”

The students competed in several different rounds throughout the weekend. The Young Company team performed three monologues, a two-person scene, a three-person scene, and a full group ensemble scene.
           
“The ensemble scene we performed was a compilation of storm scenes from several different Shakespeare shows, put together by John Maclay and Matt Daniels,” explained Ellen Sansone. “To make the scene work, we all had to be very in tune to what every person was doing. By doing so, we were able to create the flow and build of a storm through listening and responding to each other with very few predetermined cues while different scenes went on in the middle of our "storm." It was exciting and incredibly cool to perform.”

For the first time in First Stage’s history with the competition, the ensemble scene was chosen to be a part of the competition showcase! The students were incredibly honored to be a part of the showcase.
 “It was fast paced and full of energy," said Max Mainwood.  "An experience that happened in what seemed like seconds”

“I really loved being able to do the scene a second time in Utah,” said Ellen. “One of the coolest moments of the showcase was the very end. At the end of the scene, we build up the storm to a loud roar together and then, by listening to each other, we suddenly stop everything completely and there is just silence. We got that ending closer together than we ever had before and it was chilling! The audience kind of gasped at it and I think we all did a bit too!”

“The feedback we received was incredible,” remembers Max Bahneman. “Hearing the gasps of the students in the showcase audience as we finished brought me to tears. The standing ovation was just an added bonus.”

In addition to competing, the students were able to watch other schools perform. Seeing their peers perform can be an incredible learning experience.

“We were able to see students from the Jean Massieu School of the Deaf perform one of the witches scenes from Macbeth entirely in American Sign Language,” said Ellen. “I was also able to see a student from this school perform one of Benedick’s monologues from Much Ado About Nothing. Seeing Shakespeare performed in ASL was unlike anything I have ever seen before.

Max Bahneman was amazed as well. "They didn't let their disability stop them and it was magical to watch. The ASL group showed what great commitment these kids had to the arts." 

“The school of the deaf touched and inspired me to discover other types of theater and actually learn a bit of sign language,” said Kiaran. “Their performances are beautiful and I really wish I could experience more theater like that!"

“Another interesting group scene we saw was a performance of the scene from Hamlet in which Ophelia goes crazy,” said Ellen. “The group portrayed the scene from Ophelia’s point of view, so the audience could see what was going on in her head. In the beginning, there was a group of six girls singing everything Ophelia was saying/singing, which was very cool. But what blew all of our minds was what they did with Laertes. At first, they had Laertes run in and confront Claudius but when Laertes turned to talk to Ophelia, the group had the Laertes actor’s twin brother join the scene, so Ophelia saw two identical Laertes. The Laertes twins moved and spoke entirely in sync. It was eerie and so cool!”

The students also saw two full Shakespeare productions. They saw Richard II at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Romeo and Juliet at Southern Utah University, in their outdoor replica of the globe theatre!

“Richard II, played by David Ivers, was such an emotionally strong character, not letting anything back,” said Max Mainwood. “His shifts of emotion between moments were breathtaking, and a perfect example of how one can enthrall an audience by simply being alive and present on stage.”

Beyond all the amazing experiences in performing and watching Shakespeare, the student gained some valuable life experience as well.

"This trip gave me confidence that I am heading in the right direction and that my training is paying off,” said Max Bahneman. “The experience was so amazing that it is hard not to recommend pursuing this trip. Overall, it made me feel prepared for what is next and allowed me to evaluate where I am as an artist and what I still need to work on.”

Ellen agrees, “I feel the competition aspect of this trip helped prepare me for college auditions. The way the competition was set up for individual acts, we had to do three rounds of performing in different rooms for different judges. From what I have heard from other students, this is very similar to college auditions…I feel I have a better understanding of what to expect.”

“The trip makes me feel good about going into theater—it excites me to maybe work in that environment one day,” said Kiaran.

It was a great weekend full of laughter, artistry, dedication, and excitement. The students represented First Stage and themselves in a way that made us all proud. They really are amazing young people who not only deserve acting accolades, but they deserve “I’m an Incredible Human” awards as well!

“There are truly no words to describe the feelings I experienced in those mountains doing what I love to do,” said Max Mainwood. “The family we created will never die and the memories will forever be ingrained in my mind and soul. I was honored to be a part of this trip and will always hold this experience dear to me.”

The final results of the competition are…
Laura Mesrobian took second place overall in monologues. The ensemble scene took first place, and the entire ensemble took second place overall! If you see any of these students, congratulate them on a job well done!

Young Company is one of the audition-only school year intensive classes offered by First Stage Theater Academy. Their next production is Maul of the Dead, December 6-8, 2013 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center.



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