Dalton High School winter play is true collaboration

From left are Raymundo Moncayo as Richard Burbage, Paige Manahan as Viola De Lesseps, Austin Rogers as Henslowe, Jacob Byerts as WIll Shakespeare, Cole Cooper as Christopher Marlowe and Bethany Southerland as Ned Alleyn in the Dalton High School winter play production of "Shakespeare in Love."

In what will be the inaugural presentation of the new Dalton High School Fine Arts Academy, the DHS Players are collaborating with DHS chorus students, DHS band students, DHS art students, DHS engineering students, DHS video production students and DHS culinary arts students to present the 2020 winter play “Shakespeare in Love.”

The stage adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film will be presented Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the DHS theater. The Friday and Saturday presentations will be dinner theater performances, with dinner catered by DHS culinary arts students served at 6 p.m., followed by the 7 p.m. curtain.

“This has been a truly collaborative effort on the part of so many Dalton High teachers and students from so many different departments,” said Wes Phinney, the DHS drama director, “It’s a great example of cross-disciplinary teamwork.”

Phinney cites the production’s set design as the best example.

“IB (International Baccalaureate) Theatre student Lily Rehberg designed a revolving set for the play, and DHS engineering teacher Davin Norton agreed to challenge his students to construct the revolve. It really is a unique marvel of engineering and design,” said Phinney, “So much so that the student-performers have been inspired to raise the caliber of their performances, which were very good to begin with.”

The student-performers have been working overtime to bring the stage adaptation of the fictional story of a young William Shakespeare to life. In “Shakespeare in Love,” the bard of Stratford (played by Jacob Byerts) has writer’s block and needs some inspiration. His ideas for his new comedy “Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter” are less than genius, and Henslowe (Austin Rogers), the owner of the theater, is under pressure from Fennyman (Lee Martin), the producer, to whom he owes money. Meanwhile, across town, a rival theater owned by Richard Burbage (Raymundo Moncayo) performs Will’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” without his permission and with a dog.

Inside the city walls, a high-spirited young lady, Viola De Lesseps (Paige Manahan), who knows Will’s work very well, wishes to be on the stage. This, of course, is against the law in Elizabethan England, but it doesn’t stop her from trying. Disguised as a young man named Thomas Kent, Viola auditions and is cast in Will’s new play, the very one he is struggling to finish.

Viola returns home to discover that her father (Sabino Herrera) has arranged a marriage for her to a Lord Wessex (Joshua Grimes), a wealthy Virginia plantation owner. Will and his playwright friend Christopher Marlowe (Cole Cooper) come to Viola’s house looking for “Master Kent” to offer him the lead part of Romeo. Seeing Viola for the first time, Will and Viola soon engage in a scene similar to the initial meeting of Romeo and Juliet, much to the offense of Lord Wessex. Despite Wessex’ objections, Will persists, and a Romeo-and-Juliet-like balcony scene unfolds as the writer discovers newfound inspiration in his feelings for Viola.

Rehearsals for “Romeo and Ethel” begin with Ned Alleyn (Bethany Southerland) and the popular Admiral’s Men Company of players. As they continue, the story gradually changes from one about Romeo and a pirate’s daughter to one with a love interest named Juliet. When Viola informs Will of her impending marriage and warns him that he must not visit her again, Will follows Kent from rehearsal, discovers Viola’s disguise, and tries to convince her to run away with him instead of marrying Wessex. Knowing she can never do this, Viola goes with Wessex to receive Queen Elizabeth’s (Megan Robertson) approval for their marriage.

Will’s world continues to fall apart when Burbage claims he has purchased the rights to the “Romeo and Juliet” manuscript. As Will’s company celebrates their victory in hiding the manuscript from their rival, Viola/Kent discovers Will has an estranged wife and two children.

Even though Will and Viola work through their misunderstandings for the sake of the play, more troubles await at the theater. The Queen’s Chamberlain (Reyd Mahan) declares it closed for allowing a female to act on the stage.

With so many disruptions, what will happen to Shakespeare’s new play? Where will Will’s company go? Can Will and Viola ever really be together?

To find out, you will need to purchase tickets for one of the public performances. Tickets for performances only are $10 and can be purchased at the door. To reserve seats for a dinner theater performance, go to www.daltonhs.booktix.com.

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