Celebrating the Bard - Taupō-nui-a-Tia College is sending the most students from one New Zealand school to a Shakespeare festival in Dunedin.
Winning a hotly contested spot to the National Shakespeare School Production are director Emma Sutton, 17; and actors Joseph Sutherland, 16; Boaz Mellor, 17; Keegan Delaney, 16; and Levi Hemi, 17. They will join 43 other high school students from around New Zealand who have demonstrated expertise as Shakespearean actors, musicians or costume designers for nine days of workshops followed by performances.
The students are very excited about the trip to Dunedin and staying at St Hilda's Collegiate School while attending the Shakespeare course at Otago University. Taupō-nui-a-Tia drama teacher Vivienne Gowdy de Vallejo says the students will be kept really busy for the entire eight days they are in Dunedin.
"Five students were chosen to attend from Taupō-nui-a-Tia College and this is the most students who have ever been selected from one school to attend," said Ms Gowdy de Vallejo.
Having strength in different areas is the reason why the college has been so successful this year, says Hemi.
"We also made our performances a comedy rather than being intellectual," says Sutherland.
Understanding Shakespeare plays to the extent that the actors could produce a funny performance is no small feat, says Sutton. She says she made extensive use of online tools to understand what the Bard was driving at.
"We had to take it line by line," says Sutherland, with Mellor saying when he first started to learn a play it was hard to get the tempo and the grammar.
Gowdy de Vallejo says all the students worked hard to study the plays to understand what was going on so they could act their part.
"It was very helpful having Shakespeare directors at the high school, with the year 13s directing the year 12s," says Gowdy de Vallejo.
Putting together video submissions for the National Shakespeare School Production meant the students tasted many different plays by Shakespeare and also played many different parts.
Delaney says his favourite role was Caliban from The Tempest because Caliban was humorous to the audience but not to the other characters. Sutton says her favourite Shakespeare play is Hamlet.
"Everyone knows the line, 'To be or not to be', and it's kind of funny and wacky."
Playing Trinculo from The Tempest was the favourite for Sutherland.
"He understands that once he consumes alcohol he devolves into madness."
Mellor enjoyed playing Dogberry from the play Much Ado About Nothing because it was fun ridiculing his character.
"He thinks he's smart but he's not."
Playing the opposite personality from his own was what fascinated Hemi about playing Iago from Othello.
"Saying things, and getting into people's heads. It's so not me, but it was a fun role to play."
Each of the students came to acting in their own way with Sutherland the only one to have gone on stage at primary school, Hemi came at it from a kapa haka background and Mellor says he didn't really get into it until year 11.
"When I was year 10, drama class let me see there were stories all around me other than the one that was in front of me," says Hemi.
Sutton says due to Covid-19 the audience will be limited to 40 people, but says it will still be exciting to perform. She says the biggest challenge will be learning the material and learning the lines.
Delaney says he is looking forward to making connections with students with similar interests and says going down to Dunedin will be a great learning experience.
Two of the five say they will continue on with acting after they finish school. Hemi is applying to study drama at tertiary level and Sutherland saying he will continue on with community plays when he leaves school in 2022. Next year Sutton is going to study to become a pastry chef and Delaney is going to do a chef's apprenticeship. Mellor is also a talented tennis player and is keen to explore a sporting career.
All the students said they couldn't have done it without Gowdy de Vallejo and in particular wanted to thank Mamma Gowdy (Gowdy de Vallejo's mother) for her acting coaching.