This spring, DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre is offering a new experience… a Shakespearience! The teaching artist for this experience is Billy Wolfgang, founder of OrangeMite Studios where Wolfgang has been involved in 16 different Shakespearean productions. He promises to bring not only directing experience to our workshop, but more specifically, Shakespearean acting experience. “Getting participants involved in many different scenes will be the key to our success. Students will be involved in material from a variety of plays to give them a broader view of Shakespeare’s work. We will then use that knowledge and apply it to the comedy play we produce as a class.”
By looking at him, you might not recognize Wolfgang as a lover of the bard. He’s young, hip, and enthusiastic. Wolfgang says that his love of Shakespeare had to grow on him. “It wasn’t something I was born loving. And, unfortunately it wasn’t something I discovered a love for in high school.” Wolfgang says his love of Shakespeare didn’t start until he was committed to a Shakespeare performance. Wolfgang remembers, “Then, and only then, did I discover what all the Shakespeare ‘hype’ was about – finally I figured out why we had to read it in English class.” It was through the production of Shakespeare’s work that he was fully able to understand and appreciate it.
The DreamWrights Shakespearience will include a look at Shakespeare’s work in different genres and acting out some famous scenes from Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Cymbeline, and others. Students will learn the importance of verse and how to use it to their advantage, to aid with their memorization. “To say that the dialogue isn’t difficult would be a disservice to those participating as an actor or as an audience member,” Wolfgang explains. “So we will unlock and make it understandable to all involved on both sides of the process.”Wolfgang promises a lot of movement and laughter in the workshop. “Together we will take the text off of the page and make it real for each other and for our audience. We will laugh and we will move. Movement and kinesthetic activity are an extremely vital part of the experience. The movement will be one aspect that will help us with the text, and together they create a complete ‘Shakespearience.’ Also, it wouldn’t be Shakespeare without a little sword fighting!”
Shakespeare has many layers of comedy in his plays. Even Shakespearean plays that aren’t supposed to be funny (like histories or tragedies), are still quite funny. Wolfgang explains, “This was done intentionally, of course. Shakespeare was an entertainer first and foremost – he wasn’t writing material to be added to high school English textbooks, he was writing to make people come back to his theatre year after year, he wanted them to have fun.”
Who doesn’t love blatant Shakespearean insults?! “Thou leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agatering, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch.” Wolfgang explains, ”We might not know what all those bizarre words mean, but trust me, ‘puke-stocking,’ for better or worse, gets an audience every time.”
Wolfgang promises that the jokes will jump out at you, one way or another. “Silly one-liners may be great, but they don’t necessarily demonstrate Shakespeare’s real comic genius, which is the fantastic, witty and comic exchanges between characters. The silly mix-ups of mistaken identity or the goofball clown character interacting with a serious and angry lord always prove to be fun moments.”
The DreamWrights Shakespearience begins March 2 and runs for six Wednesdays: March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 and April 6 (6:00 pm – 8:00 pm) and six Saturdays: March 5, 12, 19 & 26, April 2 and 9 (9:00 am – 12:00 pm). Participants in this exciting and playful performance class will explore Shakespearean text with the body, voice, mind and imagination, learning how to play with verse effectively in order to communicate story with an audience and portray the intriguing characters presented in one of Shakespeare’s comedies. The class will culminate with a performance of a 30 minute Shakespearean comedy. Beginner and experienced players are both welcome! Ages 10 – 16. Cost is $270. Spaces are limited. Register via phone at 717-848-8623 or online at www.dreamwrights.org.