Once more into the Bard — The Shakespeare Schools Festival returns
This year there is much ado about a lot at the upcoming Bermuda Shakespeare Schools Festival.
As the festival gears up for a sixth season this month, nine young people are preparing to perform in Barbados in November. It will be the Festival's first foray abroad.
“This year we were asked to co-ordinate a group to go to Barbados,” said founder of the festival, Conchita Ming. “That is different for us and much more labour intensive.
“The group will not be performing Shakespeare, they will be doing an original play by Folklife Officer Dr Kim Dismont Robinson.
“We opened auditions up to anyone who has taken part in the festival since we started.”
While in Barbados, the festival team are hoping to arrange for a group of Barbados students to come to Bermuda to perform in the Bermuda Shakespeare Schools Festival next year.
“For a long time, we have wanted to establish a relationship with secondary schools in the Caribbean,” said Mrs Ming. “So we see this as a great opportunity.”
This year's festival will be held between October 14 to 16 at the Berkeley Institute. CedarBridge Academy will do “Measure for Measure”, Saltus Grammar School will perform “Much Ado About Nothing”, Warwick Academy will present “Hamlet”, Somersfield Academy will perform “Romeo and Juliet”, Bermuda High School for Girls (BHS) will do “Cymbeline”, and The Berkeley Institute will do “Othello”.
“For the first time, there is no ‘The Tempest',” said Facilitator Jo Shane. “Someone usually does ‘The Tempest' because of its relationship to Bermuda. This year BHS will be performing one of Shakespeare's lesser known plays, ‘Cymbeline'.”
“The festival is such an opportunity,” said Mrs Ming. “It is in line with the students General Certificate for Secondary School Education (GCSE) drama studies.
“We also provide scholarships for students to do other things in the drama arena. One of our first scholarship recipients, Rowan Vickers, is now studying drama at Julliard. There are also drama workshops in the summer for students.”
She said the original plan was to do the festival biannually, but the community has embraced it so much that it is held every year.
“We are so impressed that many people who have never been to a Shakespeare play really enjoy it,” said Mrs Ming. “English actor Orlando Bloom once said one of the things he loves about Shakespeare is the rhythm of the language.
“There is something about the way that it is presented that enthrals people. The students do understand it, and they relish it. It is amazing.”
Jo Shane who is well known on the local stage said she is excited to see that some of the festival performers have gone on to become involved in local drama groups such as the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society and the Gilbert and Sullivan Society.
Some of them have even taken leading roles in their productions.
In the festival, each play is gently critiqued by a group of assessors at the end of each night.
“It is not a competition,” said Ms Shane. “It is quite definitely a festival, but there is a slight competitive feel about it. Sometimes the kids just want to do better than they did the year before.
“We are constantly amazed at the different ways they come at the same play. The kids get very excited during the performance.
“Students in the audience will clap, cheer and bang their feet for performers on stage. It is a very positive experience.”
This year journalist Robyn Skinner has been helping with publicity and Stephanie Lee has been handling the festival's social media page which includes Shakespeare quizzes and other fun activities.
“We want people to buy tickets and support the positive things that our young people are doing,” said Mrs Ming. “There are so many negative things out there, but these are really committed youngsters.
“I find that the ones that are involved in the arts are usually the best students in the schools. It contributes to their total well being. To get the community to support them is critical.”
Tickets are $15 online through www.premierticketsglobal.com or $20 at the door. Festival nights are from 7pm to 9pm at Berkeley Institute.
Saltus Grammar and CedarBridge Academy will be first up on October 14, the Bermuda High School and Berkeley Institute will follow on October 15 and Somersfield Academy and Warwick Academy will perform on October 16.
See www.facebook.com/pages/Bermuda-Shakespeare-Schools-Festival/200476666672992 for more details.