The first weekend in November, Lowell High School’s theater department will showcase The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised]. The production follows “a troupe of actors to encapsulate all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in 90 minutes” according to the play’s director Heidi Kolp. The comedy looks for audience participation, features a puppet show and a rap all while expressing the works and themes of Shakespeare. The cast and crew eagerly await an audience to take in the work they’ve put into all aspects of the play. “Those who love comedy and Shakespeare should see the production.” says senior Ashlie Hathaway.
Taking on Shakespeare
After reading the script for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised], Kolp fell in love with the play. A factor in being pulled to this work is likely her role teaching Shakespeare at Lowell High School, in addition to eleventh grade English, speech, and debate.
Obtaining a Theater minor from Michigan State University,Kolp is familiar with theater and the role of Director. She oversaw the high school’s musicals for six years from 2012-2017 before handing over the reigns to Amanita Fahrni but remaining on as the Assistant Director. Kolp directed Annie, The Music Man, Annie Get Your Gun, Hairspray, Peter Pan, and Legally Blonde. The upcoming production will mark her debut as the fall play Director, taking the baton from Laurie Summerfield, who has directed fall plays for more than two decades. Kolp has had the opportunity to help Summerfield and learn from years of experience prior to taking over.
Those in attendance at the shows can expect to see physical comedy as the works of Shakespeare are reviewed or shown for the first time to spectators. Younger kids will enjoy the humor, but Kolp indicates parents will need to make their own decision on whether or not some portions of the production are appropriate, saying “Tragedy is some serious business.” Kids under a certain age may not fully understand or be able to handle all of the content. “The material contained in our version of the show meets PG movie rating guidelines.”
The cast will include 20 students onstage with another 15-20 taking on roles behind the scenes. We sent a set of questions which were answered by some of the seniors and one junior involved with the production. Lowell High School has a thriving theater department with a core group of kids who are interested in being involved throughout the year. Those who answered our questions are familiar with the stage having performed in multiple plays throughout their high school years. A common theme responding to a favorite part of participating in the production is friendship. When you’re working together as a group to memorize lines, remember queues, and put on the best possible show, it’s hard not to enhance already formed relationships and make new ones along the way.
The cast and crew have spent countless hours over the course of weeks and months preparing for opening night. The language of Shakespeare is not easy to read and comprehend. Those on stage have had to not only memorize lines but also actions along with the words they speak. “Shakespeare’s plays can be very hard to understand, but also hard to memorize. So seeing these actors and actresses memorizing and understanding what is [being] said really makes the play even more amazing!” says senior Esther Darling who portrays Juliet, Cleopatra, and herself. Throughout the production, characters on stage play “exaggerated versions of ourselves” according to junior Sierra Hieshetter who takes on the role of one of the narrators in the production.
This over the top acting has helped some of the cast learn to come out of shells and try new things. Seeking audience participation is another aspect not always taken in high school productions. Senior Lucas McMillian remarks, “This play is going to be so awesome, we do a lot of things that we’ve never done in any other play before, and it’s going to be so much fun.” The audience will see him play Romeo and Julius Caesar during the show.
A Weekend of Shakespeare
Theater products at Lowell High School are often events the community looks forward to throughout the school year. Students enjoy them as well. The roles of Titus Andronicus and Polonius are played by senior Tyler Sikkenga who comments, “Though I haven’t been able to be in every production we’ve done, being on stage is always a highlight of the year.”
The first play of the season takes on Shakespeare for three shows. For some like senior Willem Jewell, who is one of three narrators, it’s the first of his final group of plays for the school year. “Since this is my Senior year of high school, I wanted to complete this year with many laughs and memories.” he says. All those involved are looking forward to creating memories for those who come to the show.
Theater is an important aspect of the arts. “ I think the most important advantage to participating in theater is increased communication skills. Public speaking, face to face interaction, and putting yourself out in public physically are not practiced enough in our increasingly electronic culture. Becoming a poised, articulate presenter onstage is an important life skill.” says Director Kolp. Theater is also an outlet for students where they’re able to show off talents not necessarily seen in a classroom setting. While theater can aid distraction from spending too much time with electronics, some technology is beneficial when used with sound boards and figuring out the correct stage lighting. Students are also involved in designing the production’s poster, costumes, sets, and props. Kolp calls all of the aspects “a highly creative and collaborative process”.
The team involved with the production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised] invite the community to experience an interactive comedy about Shakespeare. Hard work, teamwork, and dedication to theater will come together for three shows. When asked about what’s coming up this season, Kolp lists the following productions the community can look forward to this school year. “We are doing The Merrie Christmas Show December 12 and 13 at 7 pm and December 14 at 10:30 am. The spring musical is Freaky Friday March 6, 7, 13, and 14 at 7 pm as well as a matinée on March 8 at 2 pm. There is often also a student-led black box production some time in May.”
Kolp is grateful for the students she directs, noting that anxiety rates are on the rise which leads to less face to face interaction than in the past. This can make auditioning for a play stressful for some. She concludes by saying, “I couldn’t be more proud of the students who took up this challenge. When given the choice ‘to be or not to be,’ they chose ‘to be’ in the show.”
The fall production will take place on Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2 at 7pm and Sunday, November 3 at 2pm at the Lowell Performing Arts Center located at 11700 Vergennes. General admission tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased online or at the door. Follow the Lowell Performing Arts Center’s Facebook page for updates on this and future productions.