Solomon Bennett, Class of 2018
This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The passionate energy, flowing creativity, and unchecked fun that is Shakespeare & Company’s Fall Festival is unlike anything that exists elsewhere.
Every fall, ten high schools situated in and around the Berkshires come together to rehearse and finally perform Shakespeare plays for one another. Rather than exist as part of a competition, the tradition is a means of breaking down barriers between schools, and allowing students to appreciate each other’s eclectic talents and hard work, all through the creative medium of Shakespeare.
This year, the 29th annual Fall Festival, the Berkshire Waldorf High School will take on the challenge of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Directed by Shakespeare & Company Fall Fest alums Annie Considine & Luke Haskell, and Berkshire Waldorf High School drama and English teacher Beth Robbins, BWHS plans to put a darker spin on the traditionally mystical comedy.
As alums, Considine and Haskell both provided insight into their experiences in the Fall Festival as students themselves, and into why they believe that it is an incredibly important experience for growing teens.
When asked via email why A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the right play for the BWHS, Considine responded: “Choosing a play is a long and complicated process for each school, but we can confidently say that Midsummer was the best choice for Berkshire Waldorf High School for many, many reasons. Secret reasons.”
Considine participated in Shakespeare & Company’s Fall Festival for all four years of her high school career. She played Helena in a rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in her senior year, which would come to shape her passion for Shakespeare, and for learning to support and work together with fellow cast members. Most recently, Considine performed in Measure for Measure, as part of a theater program at the Austen Riggs Center.
Haskell, too, performed as part of Shakespeare & Company’s Fall Festival for all four years of high school. His role as one of five Hamlets in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his sophomore year sparked a love of acting which would follow him with undying loyalty. This past year, Haskell was in the Northeast Regional Education Tour at Shakespeare & Company, performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. Their performances took place on the road for four months, for middle and high schoolers and college students. As part of the summer season at Shakespeare & Company, he performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream again.
In response to the questions as to why the play was right for BWHS, he replied: “We don’t like to get too specific when people ask this question for a myriad of reasons, however I can tell you that we cast out a bunch of potential shows before we arrived at this one, and this play just made the most sense with the group of people we had.” He then went further into the selection process, writing: “That’s what makes the festival so exciting, is that we try to pick the show that serves the school best rather than come in with a set idea and hope we can make it work.”
Finally, both directors spoke to why the public should be interested in the play and the Fall Festival program, and how they’re both relevant to the community as a whole.
Speaking specifically to the power of Shakespeare, Considine elaborated on how this take of a classic will be unlike anything seen before “...A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the most perfectly structured comedies in existence (and the only known play that Shakespeare wrote in which he didn’t copy the plot from another play). We’re taking a darker look at the show in our production, which is extremely supported by the text and not often seen in Shakespeare’s comedies. It’s going to be an amazing show.”
Haskell responded with a particular focus on the importance and universality of theater in general, writing that “The arts are incredibly important. The arts serve everyone in the sense that, at it’s core, art (especially theater) teaches people empathy, it can remind us of the beauty of humanity and what it means to be alive and to experience emotions and hardships and love, and I think Shakespeare’s plays especially have a way of highlighting that. That’s why people should support theater in general.”
The Berkshire Waldorf High School plans on delving deeper into the emotional struggles and conflicts present in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a way that truly reflects the aspects of humanity that every audience member can relate to. The darker themes that will be expressed will create a powerful and thoroughly entertaining performance that will undoubtedly stay in the memories of the audience for a long time.
School performances are Thursday, November 9 at 7 pm, Friday, November 10 at 7 pm, and Saturday, November 11, a matinee at 2 pm. All school performances take place in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre.
The Berkshire Waldorf High School Fall Festival performance is Saturday, November 18, at 3:30 pm in the Tina Packer Playhouse.
Come see one of these performances and support the Berkshire Waldorf High School’s talented actors in person.