MONMOUTH — Rachel Fullmer said she’s interested in William Shakespeare because it boggles her mind that he wrote so many works at such a young age.

The 13-year-old from Hallowell takes the stage as Hermia in a local theater group’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” beginning Friday at Cumston Hall in Monmouth. Next month marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and Fullmer is thrilled to be a part of this production company’s remembrance of the great playwright.

“It interests me that his plays have been around for centuries, and yet we still have the honor to be able to recreate them today,” Fullmer said between scenes during a dress rehearsal Tuesday afternoon.

The Southern Maine Association of Shakespearean Homeschoolers is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1993. The group’s director, Samuel Richards, a Shakespeare scholar and pastor from the East Winthrop Baptist Church, chose this play because of its broad appeal.

“This is a tremendous show for a young cast,” said Richards, who studied at Oxford University in England and had a small role in a performance in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown. “I get to introduce lots of little ones to the theater in a way that everyone feels entertained and delighted.”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” includes four interconnected plots centered around the wedding celebration of Duke Theseus of Athens and Hippolyta, the Amazon queen, which takes place in both the woodland and in the Fairyland realm.

The cast for this production — 13 boys and 11 girls — includes performers ages 5 to 17, including 16-year-old Ian Maxwell, of South China. He was cast originally as Oberon, king of the fairies; but because of a casting conflict, he’s also playing Duke Theseus, the lead character.

“I feel OK, but we’ll see how I feel on the night of the performances,” Maxwell said of having to remember about 800 lines for the two parts.

During the dress rehearsal, under the direction of Richards and production manager and assistant director Larisa Batchelder, performers shuttled back and forth between the stage and the dressing room, which was filled with costumes Richards said are a part of the collection he has amassed over his career.

The production began six months ago with classes about the play and auditions. Over time, rehearsals increased in frequency. This week, Richards said, is crunch week, and the cast will prepare every day before Friday’s opening performance.

“We do it in the original language and don’t back down from it,” he said. “We face the differences in language and vocabulary and (the children) understand it before they perform it.”

Richards said he teaches Shakespeare through performance so the children understand the play while acting it out.

“You need a teacher that loves Shakespeare,” he said. “I teach the music, the cadence, posture, projection, and you can paint a picture with your words,” which is one of the things that interests Maxwell most about Shakespeare.

Richards said Fullmer, who moved to Hallowell with her family several years ago from Colorado, is one of the finest actresses he’s ever worked with.

“She’s a gal that’s going to go somewhere,” he said. “She’s awesome.”

Fullmer’s mother, Marcy, a home-school association board member, said her daughter always has been interested in acting. Because of the difficulty with Shakespeare’s use of language, Fullmer thought it was going to be a challenge.

“The kids are all great and are doing a wonderful job,” Marcy Fullmer said. Her daughter said it was much easier than she expected, considering she wasn’t all that familiar with Shakespeare’s works before joining the group last year.

The cast, Fullmer said, is like a big family, and she especially likes helping and looking after the younger children.

“It’s fun to be a motherly figure,” she said. “I really like to help out.”

The group last performed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 2011. Last year, SMASH produced the comedy “The Merchant of Venice,” about a merchant who defaults on a large loan.

The first performance of Shakespeare’s 14th play, which was written between 1590 and 1597, is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Cumston Hall in Monmouth. The group will hold additional performances at 2 p.m. Saturday; 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10, and Friday, March 11; and 2 p.m. Saturday, March 12.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

 

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