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Students get tips from Shakespeare group

November 10, 1998

Shakespeare troupBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A group of about 30 Mercersburg Academy students was asked to interpret the following words on Tuesday:

"O that I serv'd that Lady,

And might not be delivered to the World

Till I had made mine own Occasion mellow

What my estate is."

"Be honest. Who understood what's going on?" asked Cary Duschl, who played Viola and spoke those lines the night before in a performance of William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night."

One hand from the semicircle of students sitting on the polished floor of the academy's Edwards Room went up.

In plainer English, Duschl explained that Viola needed a job while getting over the death of her brother, whom she believes was lost at sea.

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"Don't let the language get you down. There is certain language and certain scenes that are very straightforward," the actress told the students. She confessed she is still sometimes baffled by the Elizabethan language.

"This stuff is meant to be out loud," said Scott McCormick, another cast member with the National Players, a twentysomething troupe of actors touring the country for the better part of a year. Without hearing the words and seeing the action, he said it's easy to get lost in the language of the Bard.

"Hopefully Shakespeare will be something you don't have to dread," McCormick said.

The workshop was on analyzing scenes. Later in the day, students picked up tips on how actors prepare for a role and participated in a movement workshop.

Laurie Mufson, director of theater for the academy, said the course involved learning about staging fights "and faking slaps and faking punches so the actors are in control, but it looks real."

"It's really a dance. Stage fights have to be choreographed very carefully," Mufson said.

"It was very interesting having it broken down line by line," said Sarah Gdula, 16, who takes acting classes at the academy.

"I definitely have to analyze it just to understand it," said Gray McDermid, 15, after the workshop.

In reference to the troupe's performance Monday night, 15-year-old Jill Wyrick said, "The acting and the way they said their lines helped you figure it out."

Molly Malone, 15, agreed that the action on stage helped convey the meaning.

Founded at Catholic University and now based in Olney, Md., the National Players is the country's longest-running touring theater group, celebrating its 50th year, player Bill Gillett said.

He said the group was established "to bring classical, professional theater to audiences that might not get a chance to see it otherwise." Like the rest of the players, he finds himself trodding the boards and working behind the scenes.

Each year a dozen or so actors and theater majors are given a truck, props and costumes to hit the road for about eight months. This year they are performing "Twelfth Night" and Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac," sometimes on the same day, McCormick said.

"In February we're a huge hit in South Dakota," McCormick said of the troupe's trips to some more remote parts of the country.

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