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Young actors cut their teeth on Shakespeare

Herding, er, directing 25 children in an hour-long production — complete with line memorization, dancing and costume changes — is not for the faint of heart.

Throw some Shakespeare into the mix, and the task seems ill-advised.

Not so, said Angela Donovan, one of three directors of "William's Window," which will be performed Friday and Saturday by Matchbox Children's Theatre.

Instead of simply performing for children, she wanted a production with children. The cast, with an age range from 5 to 18, rose to the occasion.

"We were talking about something for children to do for the summer," Donovan said. "There's really nothing for kids creatively by the end of the summer."


But Shakespeare?

"I wanted them to know the history of theater, too," Donovan said, and who better to make the introduction than one of the most prolific playwrights ever.

"William's Window," written by Marina Stockdale, begins with a group of children playing. A simple explanation about a book one of them is reading sparks a conversation that segues into scenes from "Macbeth" and other works, including "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Taming of the Shrew," which has a decidedly Western flair in the local production.

"We set some of them in different time periods to show (the kids) Shakespeare is timeless," Donovan said.

Her co-directors are Leland Bissinger and Madlaine Howard.

"We wanted them to do shows like this," Donovan said, "so all the children can get experience in all aspects of theater."

Area students who attended the summer theater camp offered by MCT were guaranteed a role in the production.

Rehearsals have lasted three to four hours every Monday through Thursday since the beginning of August. This week, the cast has been fine-tuning every night.


Grace Andersen, who will be an eighth-grader this fall, designed and created all the fairy costumes, about 20 in all, she said.

"It was a lot of work and a lot of staying up late," she acknowledged, but it was practical experience.

"I want to be a costume designer for theaters when I grow up," Andersen said.

Brenna Nordeng, an upcoming junior, has been performing since she was 7; she's been involved in MCT since 2007.

"I think this play allows all the kids — and the audience — to get familiar with Shakespeare without having to delve into" some of the heavier works, she said.

Both girls credit theater for allowing them to be comfortable in all types of settings.

That's just what Donovan wants to hear. It's why she became a director, she said.

"I'd like to see them have confidence in life, and build a sense of community," Donovan said.


"Everything you learn in theater, you can apply to life."

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