The City I Love: One girl's quest to save Shakespeare
PITTSFIELD -- Beware. The Bard walks among us. William Shakespeare coined what seems like a thousand phrases, many of which we still use today in our daily conversations. We just don't always know they're Bill's. "Much ado about nothing" is one of those phrases from the play he wrote in 1599 by the same name.
Don't make a big fuss about something unimportant, the words are meant to suggest.
So, meet Taconic freshman Carli Scolforo, who has a story to tell that in her mind has much ado about a lot of things. At the forefront of her agenda is keeping Shakespeare as a member of the Taconic student body for both the immediate and long-term future.
Scolforo, and about 60 of her THS classmates, are all part of the collaboration between Shakespeare & Company, and the school that allows the students to study the great English poet and perform in the autumn at the company's Fall Festival of Shakespeare on their Lenox stage.
There are about a dozen schools involved from the region, and the students get a chance to have some role in a Shakespeare play. Just as important is the fact that the Taconic kids are able to integrate their own school colors into that rainbow melting pot and support the other actors and stage hands from various schools.
Taconic has been involved with this program for 22 years, and during that time the world has been its stage. For many years, however, the school has fallen very short annually when trying to cough up its financial dues. What should be a yearly $13,000 check has been only $3,000, and the Lenox-based company, which had been using grants and other smoke-and mirror tactics to help fund Taconic, can no longer do so.
The THS students in the program were told this spring to either come up with the cash or lose the program. They were mortified and are currently involved in some rather serious fundraising designed to help keep the program afloat.
"We're close," said Scolforo, who competes in cross-country during the autumn and is a middle-distance runner for the track and field team. "But we also want to stabilize the account. We're worried about next year and the years after that. We were caught a bit off guard by the announcement and we were a bit upset.
"This first year doing it was a good experience for me. It was actually more than I expected it to be."
Scolforo said it's been discussed that the stage group might have to go the way of the athletes and adopt some sort of pay-to-play scenario. They would like that, however, to be a solution of last resort. The students currently have no fees attached to this activity.
Shakespeare, Scolforo said, has been something of a revelation this year. She had never even so much as watched a related movie prior to this fall, but now embraces the man and his works. She acts, while others have chosen the option of doing stage work such as lighting or props.
Her only experience on stage prior to this year was a role in the annual play last year at Reid Middle School.
"I had a pretty big part in a musical where I didn't have to sing," she said with a laugh.
Added Robin Scolforo, Carli's mother, "She's a regular theater girl now."
It's all been positive, said Robin, adding "The kids who do this get it. When they watch each other perform they understand the language and the humor of Shakespeare. It's quite an amazing thing to watch them observe their own performances."
Revenues gained through the Taconic stage group's endeavors go directory to Shakespeare & Company, which supplies the directors, costumes and all other production costs.
The two fundraisers scheduled -- the group did some soliciting during the recent Third Thursday -- include a car wash at Stop & Shop on Merrill Road on Saturday, June 7, from 11 to 3, and an event at the Beacon Cinema on the morning of June 14, where performances from previous Shakespeare Fall Festival's will be shown. Donations can also be made through the Gofundme.com website by clicking on Save Shakespeare at Taconic.
Shakespeare & Company has given the Taconic students a deadline of June 15 to deliver the check.
"We're reading "Romeo and Juliet" in English class," Scolforo said. "It's been so much easier to understand the language and the book because of my involvement. One of the students in our group school choiced to Taconic because of the program."
In a school district that is sensitive to those kind of numbers, it's just one more good reason to give these kids a hand. All's well that ends well, Shakespeare said. Let's hope that's the case for these motivated Taconic students.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.