Karli Robertson and Libby Belitsos sit in the library during a free band, script binders open on their laps. They take turns covering their highlighted lines with a hand while saying their lines. They stumble over the Old English words, ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s mixed with ‘um’s while they try to remember without looking.
For most people, the word “Shakespeare” probably conjures up painful images of doing Romeo and Juliet their freshman year, stumbling over awkward 400-year old words. When Stage 32 announced they were doing Shakespeare’s The Tempest, people probably wondered who in their right mind would do it willingly.
So why do Shakespeare at a high school? “Ideally, I’d like to do a Shakespeare every year,” said theater director Erin Galligan-Baldwin. “Students should be exposed to [that], to take away the mystification of Shakespeare, and make it theater for the everyday person like it was meant to be.”
To help the actors of The Tempest understand the language better, Galligan-Baldwin brought in Margo Whitcomb, a local specialist. She’s been meeting with the actors to help them learn the old meanings of words.
Whitcomb has helped actor Aven Williams to translate these lines:
“Thy banks with pioned and twilled brims,
Which spongy April at thy hest betrims.”
The rough translation to modern English they came up with was: “Your river banks with peonies and tangled edges,/ Which in damp April you command to be decorated.”
Margo also helps with the rhythm of Shakespeare. “Shakespeare is written to be spoken,” said actor Orlando Grant. Most of it written to be spoken in a rhythm called iambic pentameter, with a down-up rhythm, like a heartbeat. Margo is teaching the cast a notation to find this rhythm, which can be seen in this example.
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