Superheroes give annual Shakespeare Festival a fresh perspective for students

Union Leader Correspondent
June 01. 2014 8:21PM

Kaleigh Johnson, 18, of Rindge, as the Joker waits outside the Jaffrey Meetinghouse with fellow members of the Conant High School Advanced Placement English Class just before their performance of the “superhero version” of “Much Ado About Nothing” at the 22nd annual Jaffrey-Rindge Shakespeare Festival in Jaffrey on Friday. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

JAFFREY — After more than two decades, the Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District Shakespeare Festival continues to educate and delight students from across the district.

On Friday, 135 students from the school district gathered at the Jaffrey Meetinghouse for the 22nd annual Shakespeare Festival.

The district-wide festival included productions of “King Richard the Second” and “The Tempest” from elementary students from Rindge Memorial School, “The Taming of Love” — a compilation of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Taming of the Shrew” — from the Jaffrey Rindge Middle School Shakespeare Club and a Conant High School advanced placement English class production of the “superhero version” of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Drew Horne, 15, of Rindge, who played Don Pedro as the Marvel comic book character Thor, said the “superhero version” of the play was inspired by a homework assignment and grew from there.

“It’s a way to make Shakespeare fun,” Horne said. “Who wouldn’t want an excuse to dress up as Thor?”

But the students soon found connections between the comic book heroes and villains and their Shakespearean counterparts.

Don Pedro’s’ rebellious brother Don John was portrayed as Thor’s rebellious brother Loki by Autumn Bennett.

DC comic book heroes and villains were also part of the mix.

“Harley Quinn was corrupted by the Joker just like we have Margaret corrupted by Borachio (in Much Ado About Nothing),” said 18-year-old Drew Whipple of Rindge, who portrayed Leonato as Marvel comic book character Nick Fury.

“As we did it we found that they did really fit together nicely, which was interesting,” Horne said.

Retired teachers Marjorie Margolis and Marcea Gustafson, who helped found the festival, said the festival has had a unifying effect on the school district and it is now a beloved tradition.

Both said over their years as teachers they saw the impact the festival had on individual students who were struggling with academic or behavior problems.

“This hooked them and often turned them around about school and what they can do. It’s a big confidence builder,” Margolis said.

The festival is an amazing day for the district, said Ryan Early, director of curriculum and instruction for the district.

“It’s one of those times when a fourth-grader or third-grader can see a 12th-grader and they are on the same team. There’s no competition other than putting it out there,” Early said. “This is truly what learning and thinking and creating is. It’s kids working with each other … What’s better than a student who has confidence?”


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