Written in a different time and in what is essentially another language, Shakespeare is often looked upon with a certain amount of dread by high school students.
So Greg Saum, 38, a new teacher at Hockinson High School, is using a different method to make The Bard more accessible.
He’s brought his theater group at the school into the Portland Playhouse Fall Festival of Shakespeare.
“I’ve seen how accessible it makes Shakespeare and I’ve seen it grow us as a theater community,” Saum said.
The program brings together students from seven schools in Portland and Clark County to work with professional actors and perform a selection of the 16th century poet’s plays.
Saum first came across it as a teacher at Ridgefield High School, where he taught prior to moving to Hockinson. Ridgefield is also participating in this year’s program, as is Fort Vancouver High School.
The schools started working together in September, and students will perform seven plays at the Fall Festival of Shakespeare at the Dolores Winningstad Theatre in Portland. Hockinson will perform “Comedy of Errors” at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Fort Vancouver will perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at noon on Sunday and Ridgefield will perform “Romeo and Juliet” at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Hannah Hofstede, a 16-year-old sophomore at Hockinson High School, said the language was a barrier when she first started working on her role as Dromio of Syracuse.
“At first it was like a tongue-twister,” Hofstede said. “But as I went through it got easier and easier.”
She’s also enjoyed seeing what the kids from the other schools are working on, and said she’s learned a lot from taking classes with them.
“We read a book last year for English, ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and I thought it was kind of cool,” Hofstede said. “But I had never seen a Shakespeare play before. This is my first time in a drama program and I’m really excited for my first production in front of an audience.”
That’s an enthusiasm Saum said he’s witnessed before when working with the Portland Playhouse group. And it’s great to see the kids broaden their horizons by working with students at a variety of other schools, he said.
“I really want them to see that they’re part of a larger theater community that spans beyond their school,” Saum said.
The Hockinson High School group will also perform the show at the school at 7 p.m. Nov. 7, 8 and 9.
Visit portlandplayhouse.org/fall-festival-of-shakespeare or call the school at 360-448-6450.
Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.