Monday, March 09, 2015

TOP STORY >> Young actors thrill audience

Leader staff writer

Warren Dupree Elementary fifth-grade students in Rick Kron’s class performed a humorous interpretation of Macbeth vs. Star Wars during last weekend’s Shakespeare Scene Festival at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The audience enjoyed the performance of  the fifth graders from Jacksonville. It was a mashup of pirates, ghosts, witches, Star Wars’ Darth Vader and of course Macbeth, in a battle of good versus evil. 

Philip Eierdam, who played one of two Luke Skywalkers in the performance, said he was scared at first and skittish about going on.

A’leah Williams, who was Lady Macbeth, said, “It was hard if you had long lines to remember. Some of the words were hard to understand. After we started reading though; it began to make sense.”

Naivyaj Taylor said the most difficult part of the play was wearing tights. All students were in tights to give them a feel for acting in Shakespeare’s time.

Their teacher called it “a rite of passage. They hollered about wearing them, but once they had them on they wanted to keep the tights,” he said.

Dr. Kris McAbee, the assistant professor in the English Department at UALR who directs the Shakespeare Scene Festival, said she loved the actors wearing tights on a college stage.

“It is true to form. It is adorable,” she said.

Fifth grader Jessica Williams, the narrator whose job was to keep the play on task, said, “I learned if we mess up, to keep going and have fun.”

David Foster said he was comfortable.

“I knew my lines. It was easy, but I got a little nervous. When we messed up (the audience) thought that it was part of the show,” Foster said.

“If you know you want to do, just do it,” Foster added.

Many of the students said afterward they would like to continue in the performing arts. They agreed it was a good experience performing in front of people.

McAbee said, “(Kron’s) class is always well prepared. I like to have him as the closing. It is the highlight of the festival.”

“If they did not have all the snow days (four), they would have been perfect,” McAbee said. 
After his class received a standing ovation, Kron told the 19 students they earned an “A” in English, reading and social studies as the performance-based activity spanned all three subjects. 

The students started reading and discussing the full version of Macbeth in January and quickly made connections between it and Star Wars.

“In Macbeth, Banquo says, ‘God be with you.’ Is that the same was ‘May the Force be with you?” Robbie Williams asked.

Jordan Bonds, who played the hero Macduff, said like Star Wars, it was a battle of good versus evil with good not coming out on top until the end.”

Another student said both Darth Vader and Macbeth went over to the dark side.

McAbee said she would like to see more elementary schools participate in the two- day festival.

The Shakespeare Scene Festival is a UALR event sponsored by the Departments of English and Theatre Arts and Dance. Its main purpose is to provide teachers and students a venue for the performance of Shakespeare’s plays.

Although McAbee stressed it is not a competition, schools try to outperform each other and to do better than they did last year.

Besides Warren Dupree, Friday’s slate of activities listed performances by Central High School, Sheridan Middle School and Perryville High School, a lute demonstration and a friendly contest of tossing about Shakespearean insults.

Thursday’s performances were canceled because most of the schools were still closed because of snow and ice. McAbee said efforts are being made to reschedule the canceled events.