Coming to Chamblee Charter High School’s stage is a production of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays — “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a story of love, dreams and human nature.
Teaching artists Dani Herd and Adam King are working with Chamblee to bring 16th century words alive onstage through an eight week residency program in partnership with the Shakespeare Tavern.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream is such a fun show to do,” said Herd, artistic associate at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse. “It’s such a great Shakespeare gateway play, because there’s so many different things going on, so there’s a little something for everybody.”
The Shakespeare Tavern education department works regularly with metro Atlanta public schools, bringing professional actors and teachers into classrooms to bring Shakespeare’s plays to life.
“We are here to help Chamblee produce their very own production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” said King. “Over the course of eight weeks, we’ll be working here every day after school, teaching, directing, and sharing Shakespeare.”
The education department at the Shakespeare Tavern received $20,000 to fund projects providing opportunities for students to access and participate in arts education, such as the one taking place at Chamblee. $7,000 of the $20,000 was used to make the program at Chamblee possible.
The audition process for the program is taking place this week, Monday through Friday, 3:30 to 5:30, in chorus teacher Linda Lirette’s classroom.
“Anybody is eligible to audition,” said Herd. “You don’t have to have any prior stage experience. You don’t have to be a certain grade level. We want to see everybody who’s interested and excited.”
Herd wants to put a heavy emphasis on the “anyone” who can audition.
“Even if they’re a little bit scared, we’ll be able to create a space where they can expressed themselves and have a lot of fun, even if they’ve never been in a play before, even if they never do a play again,” she said. “[My main goal is] to create an environment that’s conducive to everyone’s experience and that everyone will be able to feel included and acknowledged.”
For students who prefer to remain out of the spotlight, technical theatre positions are offered, as well as roles with costuming and makeup.
“Even if there are students who don’t want to act or perform onstage, we have a place for them at the residency,” said King. “There’s lots of things that we need help with, and we want to be as inclusive as possible, even if someone doesn’t want to play a large role or doesn’t want to act at all.”
In addition to creating a safe and inclusive space, both directors have high hopes to teach their students skills that can be used for the rest of their lives.
“I feel theatre in general, and Shakespeare especially, goes a long way towards building empathy for others, and I feel like that’s the core of why I do what I do,” said King. “I think collaboration is another huge lesson to be learned from programs like this. Working together to take ownership of a text and a show does wonders to help set students up not only for their own high school classes or their immediate college future, but also for life.”
One of the ways in which King hopes to build to build teamwork is by standing back and letting students build the show themselves, creating something uniquely their own.
“I’m always looking for the students to take charge as much as possible, and just be there to facilitate all of their ideas,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s their production; it’s not something we’ve come in and put our director stamp on.”
Through this program, Herd and King hope to use concepts like this to build the confidence within participants, and help them gain a sense of self worth.
“I judge that it’s easy as a high school student to get caught up in the world of testing and getting things right, and i feel like it’s important to step back from that now and then and realize that sometimes there are no right or wrong answers,” said King. “Sometimes what you bring to the table is enough.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is taking place November 1st in the Chamblee auditorium. Anyone who wants to take part can audition any day this week, after school in the chorus room.