High school is so full of over-the-top comedy and depths-of-your-soul tragedy, it's really just like Shakespeare.
So it's fitting that two troupes of local high school actors are bringing all that emotion to the Fall Festival of Shakespeare, a non-competitive regional collaboration between Portland Playhouse and area high schools.
Ridgefield High School is covering the comedy. Its "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is modern and minimalist, according to assistant director Connie Bushnell, with the cast decked out in suits, ties and prom dresses. The forest fairies, meanwhile, look like they're made out of trees and vines, she said -- as if their makeup artist was Tim Burton, the director of several ghoulish films.
"The whole thing is a little bit funky and weird. It's really fresh," said Bushnell. RHS drama teacher Bob Meek directed.
Fort Vancouver High School is taking on the tragedy. "Romeo and Juliet" were just about high school age when their stars famously crossed and their love ran into, shall we say, family resistance. Director Sheree Fitzpatrick and her student actors decided to set their production in the tumultuous, tie-dyed 1960s.
"A lot of these kids are really into the '60s, which is nice since I was actually alive then," Fitzpatrick said. In Fort's production, she said, Juliet's family, the Capulets, is the conservative, pro-war faction, while Romeo's Montagues are the rebels sporting love beads and peace signs. Get ready for vintage background sounds, from Nat King Cole to the Rolling Stones.
Also on deck are other area schools' takes on "The Taming of the Shrew," "As You Like It" and "The Tempest." Word on the street is that these high school performances draw lots of peer support, making the shows fun, boisterous affairs. Ooohing and aaahing, busting out laughing and breaking down crying are strongly encouraged.
The Fall Festival of Shakespeare, presented by Portland Playhouse, runs all day Nov. 3 and the afternoon of Nov. 4. Fort's Romeo and Juliet begins at 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 3; Ridgefield's Dream starts at 6:30 p.m. the same day. It's all at the Winningstad Theater, 1111 S.W. Broadway. Ticket prices are $16.25 at the box office or $18.25 online. Visit portlandplayhouse.org to learn more.
Of, if you can't make it to the Fall Festival, the plays are being staged here at home, too -- and for far fewer ducats and crowns.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be presented at Ridgefield High School at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Friday. Halloween Day, Oct. 31, there will be a 3:30 p.m. matinee, with audience members encouraged to show up in costume. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and school staff.
"Romeo and Juliet" will be onstage at Fort at 7 p.m. Nov. 16, 6 p.m. Nov. 17 and 2 p.m. Nov. 18. Tickets are $5 for the public, $3 for seniors and children younger than 12, and $2 for Fort students with ID.-- Scott Hewitt