New Albany News

NAHS drama students taking 'Comedy of Errors' to Scotland

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The New Albany High School Drama Department will present Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors locally next week, in anticipation of performing the show in Scotland in August.

The show includes 17 high school students who will participate in the American High School Theatre Festival held during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest performing arts festival in the world.

Drama advisor and show director Elliott Lemberg said 17 students signed up for the trip and he chose the Shakespeare piece because it is a very high-energy, physically comedic show that should delight audiences here and abroad.

New Albany High School's version of Shakespeare's early play is set in the 1920s and follows Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, to Ephesus, where they find their identical twins, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus.

The twins were separated nearly after birth in a shipwreck.

Lemberg said the twins are mistaken for each other throughout the play, which takes place in one day, and the confusion continues to the end.

Students watched films of Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, also researching the work of the Marx Brothers, Lucille Ball and Mel Brooks to prepare themselves for the slapstick required in the farce.

Lemberg said he chose to dress the twins like Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin's character the Tramp, in an effort to disguise the fact that the twins are not identical. He said differences in height and other differences in the actors' stature only play into the nature of the play more, by making it more laughable that the twins are constantly being confused.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. July 17, 18 and 19 and at 2:30 p.m. July 19 in the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts. Tickets are $10 and $5 for senior citizens and high school staff and students through seatyourself.biz/nahs or at the door.

The students also are performing one free show at 2:30 p.m. July 20 at the Garden Theater in the Short North.

The comedy is challenging, some students say.

Junior Natalie Meilen, 16, who plays Luciana, Antipholus of Ephesus' sister-in-law, said it is challenging to relate to her character, who is very different from herself and, since she lives in the 1920s, hasn't benefitted from women's rights.

Junior Ally Fosgate, 16, said her character is challenging too, because she's playing a serious merchant who keeps asking the wrong twin for repayment of a loan.

But junior Junho Moon, 16, who plays twin Dromio of Syracuse, said the production helped him find his comedic side.

"It's certainly the most comedic role I've ever had and it's a complete switch from the other stuff," he said. "I think it's a part of my brain I hadn't turned on yet, hadn't used yet."

Students were practicing last week and working with set designer Carla Raleigh of Atlanta painting a large fabric backdrop that will set their scene in a 1920s American city, where the twins finally meet.

Lemberg said the backdrop will travel with them to Scotland and help tell the story.

Lemberg said the trip is costing each student $6,372 for the 15-day trip to London and Edinburgh from July 28 to Aug. 11.

Students held several fundraisers in the past year and a half to help subsidize the trip. They already have covered their trip costs and are continuing to raise money for props they will need to lease in Scotland to fill out their set.

Lemberg said the group's next fundraiser will be a rummage sale from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 12, in the New Albany High School staff parking lot.

While in London, the students will see two different shows and will travel by train to Edinburgh, where they will perform Aug. 4. There they also will have the opportunity to see a variety of different styles of shows in nearly every space in the city.

Lemberg said, for the festival, Edinburgh uses all sorts of spaces: rooms, theaters, churches, elevators -- even bathrooms -- as stages for performances of cabaret, dance, musical theater, poetry readings and various others during the Fringe Festival.

It's something he said he expects to change the students' lives.

"It's going to be actually transformational," he said. "I expect them to grow as individuals and to become more in tune with other cultures and other people, also to understand how they exist with others on this planet."

Fosgate said she has never traveled outside the United States before. Meilen said she has been to Canada and Moon said he has traveled in Canada and Korea.

All said they are anticipating the trip and being part of the festival.

"I'm looking forward to meeting new people outside our drama department," Fosgate said.

She said she's also anticipating learning from others who will bring different skills to the festival.

For Meilen, it's a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity.

"So few 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds get to go to the biggest arts festival in the world with 16 of their closest friends and perform together," she said.

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