North Nova students and alumni bring Shakespeare to the park

Amanda Jess
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TRENTON – Viola, following what she believes to be her brother’s death, throws herself into her work for Duke Orsino while disguised as a man. As a service to the duke, she, in male costume, acts as the messenger, relying to Olivia Orsino’s love for her. Olivia in turn falls for ‘Cesario,’ also known as Viola, who is in love with Orsino. 

It’s complicated, it’s messy, and it’s been unfolding at Trenton Park for the past month and a half.

A group of North Nova Education Centre students and alumni have been rehearsing Twelfth Night in the park amphitheatre as a summer project.

“How great would it be for Pictou County to have Shakespeare in the park?” director Donny Kitson thought to himself as he mulled over the idea.

His direction as part of the North Nova production of Spamalot earlier this year didn’t use his traditional theatre background, nor give him a chance to explore his interest in the works of William Shakespeare.

As he thought about what play to choose, he realized he had a brother and sister duo Carleigh, 15, and Andrew Halliday, 17, in his midst – a pair close in age who would work well as twins Viola and Sebastian.

After approaching them, he put together a cast in his head, 13 teenagers who would end up spending two to four hours four times during their summer weeks running their lines.

Andrew Halliday doesn’t think of it as giving up his vacation.

“It’s a privilege rather than a project.”

Kitson compares it to kids organizing a game of street hockey. Rather than playing unorganized sports as a hobby, it’s theatre.

It helps that many of the performers are already friends, making it into a social activity. 

Though the Halliday siblings have both acted before, they weren’t familiar with Shakespeare, describing Twelfth Night as cool, clever, and weird with plenty of action.

Though the 17th century play can be daunting to interpret, Kitson promises an accessible production, noting that it’s an abridged version with fewer lengthy monologues and irrelevant references.

Shakespeare comes to Trenton Park on Aug. 23 and 24 at 7 p.m.

Admission is by donation with a suggestion of $5.

All proceeds go to Roots For Youth.

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda

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