by Kate Bovarnick, Development Assistant
If you’ve seen Hamlet, you know it is a long and often challenging (but always moving) play. That’s why when Common Ground English teacher Joan Foran approached Jeremy Funk from Elm Shakespeare about producing the play with 30 teenagers he had a few concerns. “We had just finished Much Ado About Nothing, which was our longest play with the students to date, and Joan wanted to do one of the most revered and lengthiest plays. I was skeptical,” explained Funk.
This will be the sixth year that Common Ground has collaborated with Elm Shakespeare, a local nonprofit that uses the medium of Shakespeare to connect the community and educate students, to produce a student-driven Shakespearean play. Hamlet will also be one of the most ambitious efforts of the collaboration. “I was skeptical until I realized that the students were able to take on this work. Not only are they able to perform Shakespeare, they’re able to perform it really, really well,” says Funk.
The title character will be played by three different students representing the tragic Hamlet, the manic Hamlet and the balanced Hamlet. “The way Common Ground chooses the cast for Elm Shakespeare plays is totally different than most schools,” explained Carrie Beech, a freshman who will play the tragic Hamlet. “Drama is offered as a class, so if you’re in the class you must take part in the play, which leads to a really inclusive feeling,” said Beech. Students do more than act; this year, the set is created and designed by the students, and the production will include a pyrotechnics element supervised by CG Chemistry teacher Mike Horbachuk. “The students really got into the production, which I think has encouraged the entire community to want a connection to the play,” said Ms. Foran.
To prepare to take on Shakespeare, the students completed several word exercises and studied the language intensively. “They made sure we understood what Shakespeare was trying to say. At first when I read the words, it was like reading a foreign language, but we continued going over them until I could say my line and know what I was saying,” explained Beech.
On a warm spring day, surrounded by the billowing trees of the outdoor classroom, listening to the students rehearse their lines, it’s hard not to feel transported to another time …
To see Hamlet for yourself, join us on Thursday, June 6, at 9:30 am or 6pm at Common Ground’s outdoor classroom. Questions? Email Joan Foran, our drama teacher, at firstname.lastname@example.org.