Arts & Entertainment

Guest Column

How This Middle-Schooler Learned to Love Shakespeare

The cast of an all-kid “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“We know what we are now, but not what we may become.” — William Shakespeare.

This quote has a special meaning to me now; coincidentally it was a Shakespeare program that taught me the valuable lesson that you shouldn’t judge something until you experience it. When I was younger, I was in an Off-Broadway show in New York City. After that ended, I trained and took all sort of acting, singing and dance classes. While every experience had something to offer I couldn’t help but feel that many of the acting classes were redundant and I wasn’t growing as fast as I had hoped. I loved my craft, but I needed to be challenged more. Unfortunately, there are not that many classes I could find that are designed to push a child actor. So there I was, knowing what I was currently doing but with no idea what I could become, and how my newest performance journey would change my idea of what it means to be an artist.

In my search for a different and more challenging kind of class, my mom suggested trying a local Shakespeare workshop. I had heard of Shakespeare and had even read “Romeo and Juliet” but the style, the dialogue and hard-to-understand material just wasn’t that appealing to me. I was watching “Riverdale” on Netflix and was hoping to sink my teeth into some teen material or a maybe a modern musical. I was auditioning in New York, got some interesting bits of work, but wanted to learn and also feel a part of something.

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It was frustrating. Could you imagine being an athlete and not having a team to play on or a game to prepare for? So I agreed to try the Shakespeare thing but it required an audition that I was not prepared for. That is how I first came to meet Emma Schwartz.

Mrs. Emma is an actress, a director and Shakespeare aficionado. I went to her house so she could give me a crash course in Shakespeare to prepare for my audition for this Shakespeare program. She gave me a monologue to practice and began explaining how the material was supposed to be read on stage. I asked for challenge and found one. Maybe more than I had bargained for. But Mrs. Emma’s patience with me and her quiet encouragement gave me exactly the kind of push I needed. I actually left her house after just one meeting feeling confident.

My introduction to Mrs. Emma was just the beginning. As it turned out, several months later she would be directing a production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was an all-kid production with a cast ranging in ages from 10 to 15. I was skeptical at first how a bunch of kids could really make a full production work but after being greeted each week by an amazing bunch of kids who were just having fun I realized that we couldn't go wrong.

I played Helena, the proper (if not a tad ditzy) Athenian maiden hopelessly in love with Demetrius, a young warrior infatuated with my best friend. It was a rather tough role to navigate, especially since there were so many sides to her and a lot of lines to learn to speak properly in iambic pentameter.  It was very challenging but that’s what I asked for, right?

Everyone was passionate about their characters and the more we worked, the better we became. What also grew was my interest for Shakespeare. The further we got into the play the more I understood; the more I understood, the more I appreciated the artistry. It makes perfect sense that Shakespeare, who has endured for hundreds of years with countless interpretations and productions of the work, is a true master.

With Momenti Productions – Young People’s Drama! I now have a group to become the actress I know I can be. Most of all, I’m excited to work with Mrs. Emma again, in her new production about Ancient Greek Legends and Myths. I have found a second home and family in her teachings. And I can’t wait for more.

Tori Murray is an eighth grader at Edison Intermediate School in Westfield. Inquire about Momenti Productions – Young People’s Drama! by emailing or calling 908-577-7623.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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