• Laurel Contributor

Shakespeare For Kids

by Luke Osteen

The PAC Youth Theater tackles Shakespeare with a selection of scenes featuring slapstick, swordplay, and…kissing?

The Highlands Performing Arts Center’s Youth Theater Program will present “Great Scenes From Shakespeare’s Plays (with Combat)” April 26-28 at The Highlands PAC.

This show marks the natural evolution of the Youth Theater – last year, they learned combat techniques and performed a series of vignettes showcasing their new skills, culminating with a raucous sister-slapping scene from “The Taming of the Shrew.”

“After that show, our young performers wanted to tackle Shakespeare – that’s like a dream for me,” says PAC Youth Theater Director Megan Potts. “We’ve been in existence for 12 years, so I guess it’s time we bring Shakespeare to the stage.”

This year’s presentation will begin with scenes from ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ which will give the older students the chance to spout dramatic dialogue, display passion and pain and, this is important, sword-fighting.

The second half of the show offers scenes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which will give the actors a chance to display their comic skills as The Mechanicals, an amateur troupe rehearsing for a royal performance.

Returning this year to help the young players perfect their sword fighting and slapstick is fight choreographer Samantha McDonald.

“In addition to being a certified fight instructor, Samantha’s also a professional stuntwoman who’s appeared in movies like last year’s ‘The Fate of the Furious’ and television programs such as ‘The Walking Dead,’ and served as a stunt utility driver in ‘Den of Thieves,’” said Potts. “She’s taught our young actors the intricacies of hand-to-hand stage combat. For “Romeo and Juliet,” that means stage fighting and swordplay. For A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that translates into chasing and wrestling and the slapstick humor that you’d find in a Laurel and Hardy short.”

In all, 24 young people will be bringing the production to the stage. Potts said that some of her students chose not to perform on stage, instead opting for serving on the backstage run crew, working as ushers, assistants to the director, props, sound, costume, makeup, hair, lighting, and painting. It’s all part of the Youth Theater’s emphasis on complete training.

In fact, three alumni of the program are in college studying Theater Arts. One has been selected to spend the fall semester in London, where she’ll study and intern at a West End theater and return to America as a Certified Stage Combat Choreographer.

John Roman, whose work in local theater goes back three decades, has been persuaded to return from Oregon as set-designer, and his set will reflect The Globe Theater. Members of the Youth Theater troupe will assist Steve Hott Construction in erecting Roman’s sets.

But the PAC Youth Theater’s educational reach extends far beyond the confines of The Highlands PAC. The group is soliciting designs for posters, t-shirts and the playbill from young local artists. They may submit their work to The Highlands PAC or The Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library. Winning artists will receive $25 Amazon Gift Cards.

Potts said that there is still time for young people to join the troupe and participate in this show. For information, call (828) 526-9047 or email PACYouth.highlands@gmail.com

Everyone is invited to attend the free performances of “Great Scenes from Shakespeare’s Plays (with Combat).” The Highlands Performing Arts Center is located at 507 Chestnut Street.

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