The Atlanta-based Shakespeare Tavern performed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the school’s new Performing Arts Center to a packed 757-member student audience, and stuck around Marietta for a community show Wednesday night.
The new, state-of-the-art, $9 million performance space opened in August, and has been visited by a number of professional Atlanta-based performance groups. In an effort to supplement the student’s education, school Principal Leigh Colburn hopes to continue playing host to professional arts groups at the school’s center.
The auditorium was standing-room-only Wednesday, as junior and senior students clapped and cheered as characters fell in and out of love, kissed, fought, and killed themselves on stage.
Ongoing relationship with students
Wednesday’s performance was the second time the theater group visited the school, as a number of actors worked through role plays and character studies with English classes at a December workshop.
The workshop, and Wednesday’s performance, were a way to boost the students’ knowledge and understanding of Shakespeare, as many senior English classes read Macbeth earlier this year, Colburn said.
“It’s better to watch Shakespeare than read Shakespeare,” she added.
Tony Brown, the show’s director, hoped by watching the show, students would better be able to identify the emotions expressed through the somewhat-foreign iambic pentameter.
“When they see Shakespeare, they learn how to put language to their emotions,” Brown said, adding Shakespeare’s plays, “connect us with the narrative of humanity.”
Hayley Platt, who played the character Puck, said it was important for her to perform in front of high school students because it was in high school that she first became interested in Shakespeare.
Many students don’t know how “magical” Shakespeare’s plays are until they watch them performed live, Platt said.
“These plays were meant to be heard, not read,” she said.
Peter Egede, a 17-year-old senior was impressed the performance had so much energy, as he didn’t get a sense of the comedies from just reading parts of the script.
He especially loved the scene where many of the characters pretended to kill themselves.
Lawton Ward, an 18-year-old senior, said he found Shakespeare boring when he read the play. Watching the play changed his mind.
“Shakespeare language is hard already,” said Muna Animeka, also a senior. Watching it performed helped make the language a bit easier to understand, he said.
New $9 million center, built with public and school funds
The performance space cost $9 million to construct, of which $7 million came from a bond approved by Marietta residents in February 2012, said Marietta City School Board Chairman Randy Weiner. Additional funds were provided by the school system.
The auditorium is attached to the side of the school, and is fully equipped with state-of-the-art dance studios, dressing rooms and chorus rooms.
Because the center was built with both public and private funds, the school hopes to use the space as a shared area for the school community and city residents, said Thomas Algarin, a spokesman for the system.
By opening the space up to professional performance groups from Atlanta, Colburn hopes students will get more substance from their education.
“If we can get the best in the region and the best in the nation to come here and educate our kids, why not do it?” asked David Dubose, the manager of the performance space.
Watching Shakespeare come to life will help students better understand the ancient play. By listening to a professional orchestra, students can emulate their sounds in their own music classes, Colburn said.
“Our goal is to make sure we are getting the kids the best education possible in all realms. Arts tie into all academics; if you give them better arts instruction, academics get better all-around,” she said.
Center partners with professional groups
The Atlanta Shakespeare Co., while the first theater group to perform at the school, is not the only professional partnership the school has formed since the new center opened in August.
The Georgia Ballet and the Georgia Symphony Orchestra have also performed at the center, Colburn said, and the school is working on having the Atlanta Opera perform at the school.
The school also rents the space out to local community groups, said Dubose.
It has been so popular, he said, the center is already completely booked each weekend from the end of January through June.
As Caroline Ficken, a senior at the school, said, “If we build it, they will come.”