Shakespeare ‘comes alive’ at QCHS

Students shined in the Q&A session following DeSales’ production of Hamlet.
Posted on 10/20/2022
The National Endowment For The Arts flag of William Shakespeare.By Gary Weckselblatt

After a two-year absence due to COVID, Shakespeare returned to the Quakertown Community High School’s Performing Arts Center this week as more than 100 students witnessed the DeSales University theater program’s performance of Hamlet.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to see the actors live,” QCHS senior Bryce Widdoss said. “It helps to understand the storyline and to see how the actors operate on stage, which is amazing.”

The efforts of teacher Nick Burch have secured previous visits from the Linny Fowler WillPower Tour, the centerpiece of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's educational programming, to bring Shakespeare’s plays to life for QCHS students. This year, however, DeSales, with a grant already secured, reached out to him to schedule its performance.

“It speaks volumes about the quality of our program that they want to come back here,” he said. “They called us because our students have made a positive impression.”

Principal Mattias van 't Hoenderdaal believed the event will positively impact students' understanding of Shakespeare. “It makes the curriculum come alive,” he said. “I very much appreciate Mr. Burch putting this together to give our students a wonderful opportunity.”

Following the play, a post-show talk-back session allowed students to ask questions of the performers. The moderator commended the significance of each query and described one as “an amazing question.” It was proffered by George Mercadante, a freshman taking Introduction to Theater Arts.

His question was “What do they bring to their roles that other actors may not?” George felt the moderator’s response was “really cool.” He also appreciated the experience. “I never saw Hamlet before, and they managed to set up a two-hour play with minimal props and it was so lifelike.”

Students taking Advanced Placement Literature, English Honors, and Theater Arts were able to see the play. AP Literature students Katie Catalano and Julia Henry said watching the performance made Hamlet easier to understand, especially the actors’ “facial expressions and their actions,” Julia said.

DeSales’ Isaiah Stanley, who played Hamlet, was impressed with the student audience. “They had some really great questions, which is something we don’t always get from students, especially in the morning,” he said. “It shows they were really engaged.”

Mr. Burch said “For kids to get first-hand experience watching a play they read and get to hear the language of Shakespeare makes a difference. We want to give them opportunities and authentic moments to take with them. This is one of them.”

Gary Weckselblatt, director of communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at [email protected] and 215-529-2028.
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