New Kent students rehearse for "Bardathon" at Richmond Center Stage

Thespians at New Kent High School are rehearsing their version of three scenes from William Shakespeare’s “As You Like it” to perform as part of "Bardathon."

"Bardathon" is a collaborative play that brings together about 100 student actors from different schools, including live-streamed scenes performed by Russian students in St. Petersburg. The students appropriate scenes from the chosen play to different time periods and themes, and the result is a new interpretation of the Bards works, said Victoria Kesling, New Kent High School artistic director.

This year, New Kent’s thespians are performing three scenes. One will be in traditional Elizabethan English, while the other two will be set at a 90s frat party and the gym, Kesling said.

“You get to pick whatever theme you want. You just put your own twist on it,” said student actor Payton Slaughter, 16. Slaughter will be playing “Charles” in Act One of “As You Like It.”

"They've been working feverishly at school making their own take of costumes and small props for their interpretation of the sceney," added Janet Starke, director of education for Richmond Center Stage. "You get a really great, interesting variety of interpretations to the work."

The thespians also got creative with their casting of gender roles. Student actor Sam Shahinian, 17, who will be playing “Oliver” in Act One, said that the students decided to cast female roles to men, in true Elizabethan style, while also casting the male roles to women.

“Most of our scenes are actually cross-dressed,” Shahinian said. “Originally… female actors didn’t exist. Male actors played female parts and that’s just how it was for a really long time. So with the traditional scene… that’s what we’re going to do. We thought, ‘Why don’t we just bring it into the modern day (acts too)?’ ”

Student actor Virginia Daniel, 18, who will be playing “Orlando” in act 1 of the play, said that the most challenging thing about “Bardathon” is putting on a play without time to rehearse with the other schools.

“We go through a 10-minute run through if we’re lucky,” she said. “We don’t know these schools very well and (will have) to work with them to put on a full show.”

Student actor Jaccob DiLandro, 17, said that he thinks “Bardathon” is great practice for the thespian’s “24-Hour Play Project,” which he will help direct on March 27 and 28. The project is a challenge for Kesling’s advanced directing and studio acting class, in which the students will write, cast, direct and act out a play in 24 hours.

“We’re in the process of memorizing Shakespeare in two weeks. I’m pretty sure we can memorize normal English in that amount of time,” DiLandro said of the “24-Hour Play Project.”

Mayfield can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828.

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