More than 200 sophomores from Gilman and Roland Park Country School (RPCS) came together for the schools’ largest-scale Shakespeare Festival ever staged, complete with trumpet fanfare, staged sword fights, and a visit from Queen Elizabeth and The Bard himself.
The event has been months in the making, organized by Gilman English teachers Jamie Spragins, Millie McKeachie, and Patrick Hastings, along with Michele McFarland of RPCS. After sophomores at both schools finished reading Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the classes began to meet collaboratively last month. Co-ed groups were each assigned a scene and worked on memorizing lines, scene blocking, and experimenting with costumes and props. Ron Heneghan, an artist with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, led a workshop for the students on voice, character, and performance to help prepare for the event.
“The festival really allows students to convey their understanding of this text in a more creative, expressive way,” said Hastings. “It gives them an opportunity to thrive. It’s also important for sophomores to have this classroom and team experience with members of the opposite sex in anticipation of their upcoming tri-school interactions. There’s definite value to that.”
The event opened with a trumpet fanfare announcing the presence of William Shakespeare, played by Gilman Headmaster Henry P.A. Smyth, and Queen Elizabeth, played by RPCS Head of School Jean Brune. The festival featured eight Twelfth Night scene performances on the main stage, a renaissance dance, and several musical selections, including Mistress Mine by the Glee Club, and Gaillard Sonata V by music teachers Cheryl Nkeba and Ariel Dechosa.
A highlight of the event came toward the end when the Lord Mayor of London, played by English teacher Larry Malkus, interrupted the festivities with a Puritan, anti-theater diatribe. The conflict led to a choreographed sword fight between Malkus and Heneghan, who served as the master of ceremonies.
“To have 205 sophomores watching, performing, and celebrating the arts and community for a day — it’s a good time and it rewards the students for their good work this semester,” said Hastings.