Lansing at Large: High schoolers take on drama, Shakespeare

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“All the world’s a stage…” said the program for this year’s National Shakespeare Competition on Jan. 16 at Lansing High School.


But “once more unto the breach dear friends” was perhaps a more pertinent line from the Bard as 10 students strode out to recite their chosen bit of Shakespeare.


In the end, judges Marce Bean, Nick Johnston, and Kim Gryko awarded Audrey Lauzun first place and a $200 scholarship prize, Maria Robinson second place and $100, and George Taylor third and $50.


Program coordinator and ninth grade English teacher Mary Beth Fantacone will send Lauzun on to the regional competition in Syracuse.


Charles Buckley was on hand representing the English Speaking Union, sponsor of the contest.


“We don’t care how good they are,” he said beforehand. “A kid who can stand in front of an audience and give a monologue – that’s wonderful and will last the rest of their lives.”


“Most students have never done this before, doing Shakespeare in front of people,” Fantacone said. “The language is daunting and they feel that they have to deliver a perfect performance of Shakespeare’s words.”


For some, the drama was in the performance.


Audrey Lyons had been sick for three weeks running, and out of school for the most recent one. She walked out and took a deep breath, controlling her emotions.


From the wing, Fantacone murmured, “You can do this. You got it.”


Lyons breathed and started into the role of Adriana from “The Comedy of Errors.” Then she stopped, defeated. “I need it,” she said.


Having a script in hand transformed her. She hardly looked at the paper as she spoke. She began acting.


Likewise, Gillian Ross started and stopped, prompted line by line, until she accepted the paper and words of encouragement.


“I’d rather you finish,” Fantacone said quietly. “Show them how you can really give a performance.”


Relieved of the duty of memorization, Ross came alive, her eyes bright as she recited a speech from Bottom from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”


“I’m really proud of you,” Fantacone said to her. “That was the performance I knew you could give.”


Brian Sok likewise called for lines but pushed on; Fantacone told him that he did great.


Lisa Hsu was clear and confident until she missed a line. Prompted, she sped off again. At the close, her shoulders fell and she turned to Fantacone and just said “ugh.”


Fantacone reassured her, “No, it was okay. It’s fine.”


For some, the drama was in the words.


Oscar Thomas’ body was still but his voice was alive as he spoke the words of Hamlet.


Caleb Clary started strong and then came a halt.


“I messed up,” he said. “Can I start over?”


The judges nodded yes and Clary launched into the role of Claudio from “Measure for Measure,” including the striking line “Ay, but to die, and go we know not where; to lie in cold obstruction and rot.”


And for some, the drama was in the actor.


As Launce from “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” Aubryn Neubert addressed shoes, staff, hat, and dog as father, mother, sister, maid, and herself, before concluding “see how I lay the dust with my tears.”


Lauzun twirled her hair and smiled faintly as Phoebe disguising her love in “As You Like It.”


“In parcels as I did, would have gone near to fall in love with him; but for my part, I love him not nor hate him not.”


Taylor stepped forward, arms swinging, to give the event a theme as he spoke King Henry’s words about setting forth through the battle to the breach in the English lines from “Henry V.”


Robinson closed her eyes until Lady Macbeth came to her.


“Come, thick night, and pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, that my keen knife see not the wound it makes.”


“I love Shakespeare,” she said afterward. “Lady Macbeth is an intense character. I think Shakespeare writes women well. I am okay at memorizing but it’s hard to keep my head, to keep from second-guessing myself.”


Lauzon said that she always wanted to be an actor but that dance keeps her too busy to do school musicals and plays.


“I like Shakespeare’s comedies. I feel comfortable and connected to the character. I’ve felt similarly.”


“In order to have plays that have touched generations you have to have very human characters,” she concluded. “You have to explore all sides of humanity.”
Brian Sok is a senior but this was his first shot at Shakespeare.


“Theater is not in my expertise,” he said. “Voice is. I am a baritone and in two vocal ensembles. I like to sing gospel best.”


Sok prepared for his performance as he would a musical piece.


“I listened to different versions on YouTube, did some annotations, and then rehearsed it.”


“I like Bottom,” Ross said. “He’s funny and then kind of dramatic. It’s a death scene and the audience suddenly says ‘oh, dear. That actually happened.’”


“Shakespeare helped create the modern English language,” she said. “His plays question our humanness. Is this ethical? Is this good? Is this bad? And why are we like this?”


“This is the highlight of my year,” Fantacone said. “The important thing is that nobody goes home without finishing. That takes a lot of courage.”

Briefs

Library to host hiker
The Lansing Community Library will host “The North Country Trail and the Kitchen Sink,” a fast-paced slide show about the North Country National Scenic Trail and its unique experiences with author Joan Young on Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m.

The North Country Trail is the longest in the National Trails System, stretching 4,600 miles over seven states from the middle of North Dakota to the Vermont border of New York. On Aug. 3, 2010, Young became the first woman to complete the North Country National Scenic Trail on foot.


Young has enjoyed the out-of-doors her entire life. Highlights of her outdoor adventures include Girl Scouting, which provided yearly training in camp skills, the opportunity to engage in a 10-day canoe trip, and numerous short backpacking excursions.


Town Seeks Members for Advisory Council
The Town of Lansing is seeking interested citizens to join the Conservation Advisory Council, an advisory body whose purpose is to advise and provide scientific perspective in the development, management, and protection of the Town of Lansing’s natural resources.


Interested parties should contact Joe Wetmore at jwetmore@lansingtown.com.

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