Six years ago I made one of the smartest decisions of my life. After finishing my freshman year of high school I joined Appleton Summer Shakespeare’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was cast as Mustardseed the fairy, a role that will always be near to my
heart, and I spent that summer learning about the Bard, making lifelong friends, and admiring the upperclassmen’s passion and dedication to their performances. That summer I caught the “Shakespeare bug” that changed my life forever. The next year I was cast in my first lead role, Lady Ann in Richard III. I recently went back and watched a recording of that production, and was astonished by how far I’ve come as a performer and an artist. That little high school freshman has grown into a college senior who has decided to dedicate her life to the theatre, particularly to the classical theatre. With each production I am a part of I become more and more grateful for the opportunities this program gave me for four wonderful years, and the skills and passion I cultivated in that time.
Last year I returned to Summer Shakespeare to fill a new role; that of the assistant director. As I thought back to the assistant directors I worked with when I was in the program, I realized I had some large shoes to fill. All of my predecessors were fantastic
artists and incredible people, and played a large part in the progress I made as an actor in high school. I wanted so badly to be able to help my students as my AD’s had helped me. In typical Summer Shakespeare fashion, this new opportunity working with the cast of The Tempest pushed me beyond what I believed my limits were, and I couldn’t be more grateful. As I worked with students in the cast and watched them grow and gain confidence as performers, I discovered a new passion. Throughout the rehearsal process I was able to work with each of the cast members one-on-one on character development and basic acting technique. Over those two months I saw all of them–from newcomers to veterans of the program–discover new things about Shakespeare, theatre, and themselves. Never before had I considered directing as a path for me, but after this show I became more and more curious. I was overjoyed to be able to participate in such a wonderful production that sparked a new interest in me.
This year is a bitter-sweet one for me. Going in to my senior year of college, I know my
time with this amazing program is coming to an end. I am filled with nostalgia as my last Summer Shakespeare production is a return to my first. While I hate to think this is the last year I will be so involved with the program, I am beyond excited for this groundbreaking production.
The mid-west, and especially these high school students from Appleton, have never seen the likes of this. I first learned of this “environmental” theatre in a Play Reading and Analysis class I took my freshman year of college. I remember thinking how interesting it would be to attend a performance in that style. I had no idea how soon I would be assistant directing one! Providing these students and the community around us with such a unique opportunity is a wonderful thing to be a part of.
This production is pushing the limits of every person involved in the most exciting and imaginative way. All of the students are eager to dive into this show. Every time we ask them for ideas the room sparks to life with new thoughts and excited imaginings. This is without a doubt one of the most focused and enthusiastic casts I’ve ever worked with. This positive and open attitude is providing a fantastic atmosphere during rehearsals and in brainstorming. I cannot wait to see how these students grow throughout this process, and how they change me in the process.
Thank you to Mr. Parker and everyone involved in the Summer Shakespeare program for the last six years for everything they have done for me. Here’s to a marvelous 30 years of the program, and many more to come!!
I encourage everyone to come see this remarkable production and even more remarkable students July 21-24 and 28-31 at The Refuge in Appleton!!!