Kings, queens, knights and ladies of the realm will make merry Feb. 16-17, when the Canal Winchester High School performing-arts department stages the 30th annual madrigal dinner in the high school cafetorium, 100 Washington St., Canal Winchester.

CORRECTION: Because of an editor's error, the wrong venue for the Canal Winchester High School madrigal dinner Feb. 16-17 was listed in the print and previous online versions of this story. The dinner will be staged at the high school cafetorium, 100 Washington St., Canal Winchester.

Kings, queens, knights and ladies of the realm will make merry Feb. 16-17, when the Canal Winchester High School performing-arts department stages the 30th annual madrigal dinner in the high school cafetorium, 100 Washington St., Canal Winchester.

For director Todd Phillips, it's been 30 years of introducing high school thespians to the works of Shakespeare and watching a small initial effort grow to a production that this year includes a cast of more than 100 presenting Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

"The madrigal dinner format consists of an interactive Shakespeare play, period music provided by soloists, vocal ensembles, guitar ensembles, a Renaissance instrumental consort and English country dancing, along with a full, five-course meal," Phillips said.

Even though Phillips has directed the show for three decades, he said he never tires of it.

When the dinner-theater production first started, Canal Winchester High School did not have enough students to perform a musical, he recalled.

"We were a little school and we wanted to do something really special and unique for our students," Phillips said. "We decided to pursue the madrigal dinner process where we do a play, serve the food and give kids a chance to sing and dance."

The shows quickly became so popular that Phillips joked he would do them until he retires. Tickets for the performances quickly sell out.

Over the years, Phillips said, the shows have become easier to put together because organizers have worked out the details and the most efficient way to get the food done.

Even though many of the plays are repeated, a particular play is only performed once every eight to 10 years.

Phillips said he has a "blast" working with a new group of students for each production. He estimated that over the last 30 years, more than 1,000 students have been involved with the madrigal dinners.

"They are so excited, and they really enjoy the type of literature we are working on with the music, the Shakespearean script, the environment we put it in and the ability to interact with their audience -- to kind of break down that traditional theater fourth wall," he said.

"They love those elements and they love these stories and how vivid the characters really are.

"The fact that we have been able to do this for 30 years is such a testament to our community, to our student body and, certainly, our administration," Phillips said.

While he enjoys working on each show, his favorite productions have been the "ones where the students have given everything they can to the production."

"These are the ones where I see someone start insecure and worried about their skills and that student blossoms into a new, confident person," Phillips said.

The plays give students an opportunity to learn the language of Shakespeare and what the stories are really about, he said.

"Our students get a chance to understand this literature, the nature of the theater and the nature of the human behaviors," Phillips said.

"They will work on their skills to do ad-lib work in character and interact with the audience, understanding (that) ... how the audience reacts to a particular moment can change the whole moment."

Allie Kuck, a junior at CWHS, is in her second year performing as a member of the cast.

"I wanted to be a part of it because acting in a Shakespeare play is such a unique experience, and I love acting, so it is an opportunity you don't get very often," Kuck said.

Kuck said "The Merry Wives of Windsor," which was last performed at the high school in 2009, is "very funny."

"It's a great comedy, and I think audiences of all ages will love it," she said.

"The Merry Wives of Windsor" includes one of Shakespeare's most memorable characters, Sir John Falstaff, who -- after suffering financial difficulties -- decides to woo two of the richest ladies in the city, both of whom are married already.

"The women do not take his advances lightly and plan to find revenge by making the Royal Knight the butt of their jokes and the local fool," Phillips said.

Proceeds from the madrigal dinner benefit the Oley Speaks Auditorium.

"Our next big project is start replacing the seats in the auditorium proper to make it a more comfortable experience for the audience," Phillips said. "All of the monies or profits come out of the show are invested in the improvements of the main performance space."

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