Fall Festival of Shakespeare: Insights from Emma Bridges!

Acting Apprentice Emma Bridges shares her thoughts on our Fall Festival of Shakespeare thusfar...

"Working on the Fall Festival of Shakespeare this year has been far more rewarding than I ever imagined it to be. I have been directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Metropolitan Learning Center with Chris Harder, and we started out a little late in the game, unsure of what to expect. MLC is a unique school and the students there are bursting with creativity and energy but have never done an after-school play before (or had any free after-school programming, for that matter). Knowing only the principal of the school and no students or teachers, we were about to undertake directing a show full of students we had never met, 95% of whom had never gotten to work on a play. Not only that, but the principal surprised us with her suggestion to include grades 6 through 12 in the production--a challenge that we took on a little skeptically, but with open minds.

"The first day was terrifying because Chris and I shared concerns that no one would come audition for the play. We weren’t even sure what play we were going to be directing until we found out who was auditioning. Around 12 kids showed up, and many of them were interested in tech. Slowly but surely more and more students came, and we wound up with 32 students, ages 11-18,  involved in our production. It quickly became apparent that we had a cast perfect for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Many that only wanted to do tech at first wound up becoming stars of the play. Wrangling the attention of that diverse group of kids has been no easy feat, and we have many parents and other festival directors to thank who came in and helped supervise our rehearsals.

"Slowly but surely, Chris and I found our footing at MLC. The process was certainly haphazard--we had no teacher at the school that was working with us, and we found ourselves rehearsing in the library and in the hallway until we were able to use the auditorium two days before opening night. I don’t consider myself to be a disciplinarian and I have never worked as a director with this large of a group of 11-18 year old students. Building rapport with the students, as well as finding my voice as a director and a leader, took a few weeks, but it has been fruitful and rewarding. I’ve learned to put process before performance.

"We performed our play this past Friday, and the students were incredible. They knocked it out of the park, despite a snow day cancelling our only dress rehearsal! They knew their lines and had all found magnificent costumes for themselves. The lighting designer came up with a beautiful design, and the actors brought the text to life in ways I had never seen them do before. It was amazing. Before we went on stage, we huddled together as a group and many students expressed how much fun they had working together as a company, and how they were happy to know their fellow students across a wide age gap. We shouted 'HOLD OR CUT BOWSTRINGS!' and went on. The students rose to the occasion and it was a huge success! I feel extremely proud of the work and fun these students put into this play, and I eagerly await sharing our play at the Fall Festival of Shakespeare next weekend! It truly has been A Mid-Autumn Night’s Dream (Cheesy, I know. Let it happen)."

Thanks, Emma! Join us for the Fall Festival of Shakespeare at the Winningstad Theatre next Saturday, November 22. Get your tickets by clicking here!