ROSELLE, NJ - “Hail Caesar!” echoed through the auditorium at Abraham Clark High School as classical Shakespearean characters took the stage during a performance of “Julius Caesar” by The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
Students from the high school’s Honors Shakespeare classes attended the performance on March 5 that aligns with the aspects of live performance that they are learning in class.
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey put on a full performance that included costumes, stage set up and professional-grade sound effects.
“Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!” the actors proclaimed as they maneuvered up and down the rows of seats in the auditorium.
After the performance, students had the opportunity to interact with the actors and learn about all it takes to be a part of a professional theater company.
Students asked how long the company had to rehearse the show before it was performance-ready, how difficult it is to speak in ye old English and how they are able to change costumes so quickly.
When asked why they started acting, one performer said that “classical stories are important and being a person of color, I want to make sure we are represented in classical theater.”
The actors also explained to the students that they sometimes relocate the props as performers, adding to the challenges of being a full-time actor, under the scrutiny of real-time, live performances.
For Honors Shakespeare Teacher Emily Pericone and Drama Teacher Samantha Santangelo, it’s important for the budding actors in Roselle to experience a Shakespeare performance so they can fully understand it in the classroom.
“There is just something different about seeing Shakespeare live,” Pericone said. “It provides our students with the opportunity to get a better understanding of the language and really allows the performance to come alive so they have the ideal point of reference in class.”
Santangelo added that the question-and-answer portion of the performance allowed the students to learn about many different roles available in a career in theater.
“Our students had the chance to see every aspect of the play from being a director to a sound engineer. It’s important to expose them to the full range of careers that are possible in the theater industry,” she said.
This performance of “Julius Caesar” was the first show on the tour of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.
“It is a pleasure to offer our young thespians the opportunity to experience classical plays, such as ‘Julius Caesar,’ so they can fully appreciate what it takes to be an on-stage actor,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. James Baker. “We are hoping that this performance sparked the inner Shakespeare in our students and perhaps a career in the arts.”