Students set Shakespeare free in the Vail Valley |

Students set Shakespeare free in the Vail Valley

Caramie Schnell
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyJake Dutmer, left, as Petruchio, and Gina Lovell, as Kate, wrestle through their scene from "Taming of the Shrew" while rehearsing for "Shakespeare Straight Up" on Monday at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards.

VAIL VALLEY, Coloado -In his lifetime, Shakespeare is thought to have penned 38 plays. The Battle Mountain High School Players will include snippets from nearly half of the Bard’s life work Saturday night in the fall producton “Shakespeare Straight Up.” The play, which is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Edwards’ school, includes nearly 25 different skits. There is also a matinee show set for Sunday at 2 p.m.

Suzanne Foster, the drama director and a teacher at Battle Mountain, has been teaching local students about Shakespeare’s work for more than 20 years.

“I cycle through Shakespeare,” Foster said. “Every two to three years I need to do something Shakespeare.”

The last time they tackled Shakespeare was a few years ago when the students performed a modern version of “Romeo and Juliet.” But this time around, Foster and assistant director Cooter Overcash gave the 27 cast members a tremendous amount of freedom, allowing the students to improvise and come up with some of the dialogue and much of the blocking – or movement on stage – themselves.

“They came up with a lot of the things that people are going to see on stage,” Foster said. “The kids had the freedom to create something that is uniquely theirs with this show.”

Even Foster admits it was a little risky to give the students so much control, but it was worth it.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was frustrated at times but I think that the actors have a strong ownership of this show and are committed to giving the best performances they can this weekend,” she said. “I just love watching them realize what a great show they have and that the amount of work that they have put in is resulting in a pretty incredible show.”

Though junior Susanna DeChant has been acting since she was 8, this was her first Shakespeare play. She plays five different parts, including characters from “Romeo and Juliet,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “King Lear” and “The Tempest.” The freedom was also a first for DeChant, who said that rather than everyone rehearsing on stage together for this play, groups of kids would scatter and rehearse separately. The players just recently revealed what they’d come up with to the whole cast.

“If we wanted to change anything or keep it the same, we had to make those decisions,” DeChant said. “Doing Shakespeare stretches you to begin with, but to have to direct yourself is especially hard. But it makes the whole process more worthwhile.”

Senior Aaron Szindler, agreed, calling the freedom “both a blessing and a curse.”

“At least with a script there’s something you can memorize,” Szindler said. “With this, we’re writing some stuff wondering is it going to be funny? Is it going to make sense?

“It stretches the boundaries of acting and performing,” he continued. “We’re not just being given a part to act.”

Szindler’s main part in the play is that of an emcee. Along with three other people, Szindler will guide the audience through the play, something Foster says “makes the show come alive.”

“The parts are loosely based off of an old Shakespearean thing called ‘Puke and Snot,'” Szindler said. “It’s a Shakespearean-style comedy duet. We know the audience is there and we do transitions and stupid vaudeville jokes, stuff like that.”

Some of the scenes will be presented in traditional Elizabethan English, while others are adaptations with modern language. “There’s some really good physical comedy and tragedy going on,” Szindler said.

Cast member Cliff Rodrick said that while the show will be easier to understand if you have even a small knowledge of Shakespeare, it’s not required.

“Even if you don’t neccesarily understand the literature, whatever emotion we’re trying to portray will come through,” he said.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

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