Berkshire students show off hard work at Shakespeare & Company's Fall Festival


Photo Gallery | Taconic performance of Macbeth at Fall Festival

LENOX — Comment cards on the walls at Shakespeare & Company attested to why kids do it: Some crave the sense of "family," others the "challenge" and "commitment," still others to "slay the demon of idle boredom" — complete with an illustration of said demon.

Through the weekend, the hard work of hundreds of area students was on display for hundreds more who gathered — friends, family and interested viewers — as the organization celebrated its annual Fall Festival.

The students had been readying their own adaptations of Shakespeare plays for nine weeks with the help of Shakespeare & Company staff. Plays performed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday included "The Winter's Tale," "Twelfth Night," "The Tempest," "Macbeth," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The History of Henry VI" and "Antony and Cleopatra."

Shakespeare and Company's Tina Packer Playhouse bustled with hundreds of people prior to the Macbeth showing, as Caitlin Kraft, festival director of the 36-student Mount Everett Regional High School contingent, spoke about the festival.

"It becomes every fiber of their being," Kraft said. "They get so emotionally invested in what they're saying. My favorite part is when all of the students know a certain line and they'll be shouting the line along with the actors on stage."

"It's like singing along to your favorite song at a rock concert," Molly Clancy, Shakespeare & Company publicity director, added. "The energy is through the roof. Every individual student gets a chance to shine."

Jonathan Croy, co-artistic director of the festival, said students hugely influence the ultimate product that ends up on stage.

"The educational experience for the kids is that they're creativity is getting exercised," Croy said. "We're not just telling them what to do. You'll never see the same show twice, because you walk in the door with the script and start seeing how it lands with the students. You get very different takes."

He added, "In that, they get to find themselves in association with it. That's the cool part."

Meanwhile, Ellen Maggio, Egremont resident and mother to a festival graduate and a second current participant, described the active volunteer role parents play in the process — preparing males, coordinating rides to and from Lenox, helping out in various show capacities.

"You work on it exhaustingly hard, then it's Thanksgiving," Maggio said. "From the point of view of a mother, it's just the most incredibly rich program. Everything that everybody says about it is true."

Maggio's daughter Madeleine, 25, ended up majoring in theater and still performs. Her youngest daughter, Elisa, 17, played in Saturday's "Merry Wives of Windsor" show.

"When my older daughter was playing Banquo and being murdered, having her head chopped off, then coming back to life as a ghost, my youngest daughter was in second grade," Maggio said. "I was debating: Should she really see her sister die? She loved it."

Students offered their own take on the festival.

"What a lot of us like so much about it is it's about uniting kids from different schools rather than pitting them against one another in competitive events," Monument Mountain Regional High School sophomore Alessandra Reese, 16, said.

"It's so much nicer than being on a lacrosse bus," Monument Mountain Regional High School sophomore Ben Zoeller, 15, said.

"Every year I look forward to it when school starts," Monument Mountain Regional High School sophomore Ceder Potter, 16, said. "The first thought is, 'We get to start festival pretty soon.' "

The shows continue Sunday with 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. showings of Richard III and The Winter's Tale, respectively.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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