For the debut of the Cape Fear Shakespeare Youth Company’s 2015 Shakespeare on the Green season, 31 young actors will present one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies: “The Taming of the Shrew.”
Director Cherri McKay said 85 percent of the actors in the production are aged 12-18. A second-grader is the production’s youngest cast member.
“It is heavily teenagers,” McKay said. “The biggest challenge with working on a youth company production is balancing their schedules and adapting to their extra-curricular activities.”
McKay was impressed by the actors’ grasp of Elizabethan language and culture.
“To find people that young who get it is such a blessing to us,” she said. “Giving them the skills and the education about Shakespeare is my goal.”
McKay started the youth theatre company in 2005 after becoming managing producer for Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green.
“There weren’t a lot of roles for children,” she said. McKay wanted child actors to have as many opportunities as adult actors to participate in Shakespearean plays.
McKay adapted the script of “The Taming of the Shrew” to suit young actors.
“In the original script, Gremio is an older man,” she said.
However, on her production, Gremio is a young character, close in age to the teenage actor who plays him. McKay said she also cut a few scenes from the script.
“I like to adapt the script without changing the Shakespearean meanings or dialogue,” she said.
Chloe Mason, who will play Katherina, started acting while attending ArtSpace Charter School in Asheville before relocating to Wilmington last year, and will be performing in her first Shakespearean play. The 15-year-old said she has discovered there is more to the character than just her mean reputation.
“It’s been a lot of fun getting to know the character,” she said. “I think her character is a lot more complex than just being mean and hateful. … She’s scared. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know Petruchio.”
Petruchio will be played by Jackson Cole.
After spending 15 hours per week for two months in rehearsals, McKay said she is eager for her fourth production of “The Taming of the Shrew” to hit the stage.
“I’m going to be excited to kick back and watch them,” she said.
McKay is also excited about the actors’ Elizabethan-style costumes.
“We received a grant from the Landfall Foundation to cover set and costumes. That was a lot of fun for me to be able to pick out the fabrics,” she said. McKay estimates that each production costs $10,000-$20,000.
“We basically work off donations,” she said. “It’s a challenge. It’s a free festival. You don’t have to put anything in our donation bucket. It’s always going to be free.”
McKay said she wants the shows to be accessible to everyone in the community.
“The Taming of the Shrew” will be presented May 29-31; June 8-11 and 16-18 at 8 p.m. at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. to allow people to picnic and socialize before the shows start. Admission is free.
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