School to honor the Bard

Lowell Whiteman students perform Shakespeare plays tonight

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— Besieged by guilt, sliding into insanity and lost in a dreamlike, sleepwalking stupor, seventh-grader Claire Parsons stepped slowly across the stage Tuesday at the Lowell Whiteman Primary School.

Imagining that the blood of the murdered king of Scotland stained her skin, Claire wrung her hands together as she delivered one of the most famous lines in literature.

What: Shakespeare Festival by Lowell Whiteman Primary School students, featuring scenes from "Macbeth", "Hamlet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

When: 1:15 and 6 p.m. today

Where: St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Ninth and Oak Streets, adjacent to the school

Contact: Lowell Whiteman Primary School, 879-8081

"Out, damned spot! Out, I say!" Claire cried, her voice reaching the rafters.

Claire, as Lady Macbeth, is one of 25 students from the school who will perform scenes from three Shakespearean plays -- "Hamlet", "Macbeth" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" -- today in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, adjacent to the school. English teacher Kate McFee directs the plays, which are a culmination of a unit about Shakespeare that began in February.

"I think no one is too young to learn the stories that Shakespeare wrote, because they're timeless," McFee said. "I was very clear with the students that this is difficult material, and acting it out is an excellent way to learn it."

McFee said the students responded dramatically to the challenge.

"We have a number of wonderful actors and actresses who really are putting a lot into their performances," McFee said. "It's very exciting, as a teacher, to have students who want to do this. I haven't had any complaints about Shakespeare."

Seventh-grader Charlie Von Thaden plays Macbeth, who, along with Lady Macbeth, plots the murder of King Duncan, causing the guilt that consumes them.

In "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Charlie plays King Oberon, a leading -- and much more light-hearted -- character in the comedic romp.

McFee also recognized the hard work put in by sixth-grader Shaq Torrella, who plays Hamlet; eighth-grader Hannah Fishman, who plays the mischievous Puck in "A Midsummer's Night Dream"; seventh-grader Natalie Wright, who plays Queen Titania in "Midsummer"; and eighth-graders Christine Wolfe and Willow Fitzgerald, who play "Midsummer" characters Peter Quince and Nick Bottom, respectively.

During today's performances on a makeshift stage at St. Paul's, daylight will stream in through the large windows, creating a setting reminiscent of a time 400 years in the past.

"Shakespeare had sparse sets and used open-air theaters," McFee said. "In some ways, this really mimics the Shakespearean style."

McFee is near the end of her first year teaching at Lowell Whiteman, and described her first directing experience as "a blast."

"It was very challenging," she said, "but the kids were so excited that it was truly a joy."

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