Musicians played. Actors orated. The audience listens. Shakespeare Lives!

Musicians played. Actors orated. The audience listens. Shakespeare Lives!

When I was met at the door by a woman wearing a bedazzled plum Renaissance dress and circlet headpiece and the gym I was stepping into resembled market day in King Henry the VIII’s Court, I knew my expectations of Winter Park High School’s 9th Grade Center’s annual Shakespeare Festival had already been exceeded. What magic is this at a public school that so captures students’ imagination by thrusting them headlong into an immersive celebration of Shakespeare and the times in which he lived and created?

Weaving is a time-honored craft

Weaving is a time-honored craft

What better way to end the school year than by following up the required study of Romeo and Juliet than by having students attired in Elizabethan period costuming listening attentively to others who had to audition for the chance to orate prettily in sonorous tones?  What matter of mayhem hath the English department wrought that for 25 years, the annual Shakespeare Festival now crowds a gym with pennant-and-cloth draped booths in rich colors, artisans weaving on a loom or molding clay into a pot? There’s henna, caricaturists, calligraphers, and of course, majestic King Henry VII (Orlando actor Michael Marzella) robed in puffed cloak and furred crown presiding over the day’s events.

Natasha, The Psychic Lady reveals the mysteries in palms

Natasha, The Psychic Lady reveals the mysteries in palms

The band plays, someone gets locked up in the stockade, and pirate hatted men bow as they pass. There are fairies and queens, hand-servants dressing the tables laden with donated food.

The day begins in the wee hours of morn, but the organization begins anew for the next year. Each year the festival has grown in its offerings, thanks to the voluminous hours and money donated by students and parents. The Orlando Shakespeare Theater lends costumes. Teachers and administrative staff are costumed. Students are required to dress up and a collection of donated costumes are available for those in need. Each designated English class hour, that class attends the festival. They drink in the words and music of Shakespeare’s days. They revel in the pomp of the festivities.

I was hired as Natasha, The Psychic Lady to amuse, entertain and awe with my readings. Instead, I was the one who was entertained and awed by this splendid array of trappings and high spirits. My own booth bore signs hand-crafted by students. My gratitude goes to English teachers Sondra Dunlap and Stacy Julian, co-organizers of the event, for hiring me.

a student created my sign

a student created my sign

King Henry VIII says, "Huzzah"

King Henry VIII says, “Huzzah”

With so much negativity surrounding schools and the people we entrust with our most precious asset—our children, I couldn’t have been more inspired to witness the powerful impact of dedication, imagination, and community action that is still possible. I wish all the naysayers and budget-cutters could see first-hand what a difference the arts and engaging our young people’s minds can render.

Spinning a pot

Spinning a pot

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; http://www.ThePsychicLady.com

Advertisements