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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Youth Shakespeare sets the stage

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Classics will get a breath of fresh air starting May 23, when the Shakespeare Youth Company opens Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green’s Free Shakespeare Festival at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater with an adapted performance of “As You Like It.”

The actors are 18 years old and younger, but production choreographer Bri Lindsey said the performances are far from amateur.

“We don’t use the words ‘kid show’ because it’s not a kid show. They put the work in, the time and effort, and it’s a really good, professional production,” Lindsey said.

The cast meets five days per week for seven weeks to prepare.

Cherri McKay, managing producer and artistic director of Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green, adapted the script, condensing a three-hour show to one hour and switching titles to match gender and age, but the Elizabethan language remains.

McKay works with the actors to help them understand and deliver their lines correctly.

“It’s such detailed, poetic verse. They have to dissect the language. They have to understand it, to grasp it in order to get that human emotion,” McKay said. “It’s a lot to listen to and focus on at that age.”

Lindsey said watching the kids grasp it is her favorite thing about the youth performances each year.

“The kids know what they’re saying. It’s impressive to see a group of youth that’s dedicated and knows,” Lindsey said.

McKay said early understanding of the emotion and insight in Shakespearean verse will shape the young actors in important ways. Quincy Rife, an 18-year-old senior at Coastal Christian High School who has performed with the company for four years, agreed.

“Shakespeare has meant getting to know a different time that still has valuable lessons as well as learning my own personal lessons from my experience growing up in it,” Rife said.

The youth company’s performances precede the adult company’s performances of “Comedy of Errors” which will begin later durin June. McKay said the youth company has the harder job of priming the audience and working out kinks in the system.

“They are the ones out there guinea-pigging the set and lights. When the adult company goes through, anything that could go wrong has gone wrong. … It’s about the language, the performance. If things aren’t perfect in the lights world or the set world, we’ll work to get it fixed,” McKay said.

Performances of “As You Like It” will take place Friday, May 23 through Sunday, May 25; Friday, May 30 through Sunday, June 1; and Monday, June 9 through Thursday, June 12. Shows begin at 8 p.m. and guests are invited to come at 6:30 p.m., when the gates open, to picnic and mingle.

All shows are free, but the company survives on donations.

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