Drama students from around Taranaki will be treading the boards in Shakespeare's plays at the TET Kings Theatre next month.

The annual Sheilah Winn Shakespeare regional competition will take place at the historic theatre, giving participants the opportunity to perform in a working theatre instead of the usual school hall, says organiser Emma Walker.

Emma, who is the arts coordinator and drama teacher at Stratford High School, says it is her first year organising the festival, and she is enjoying the experience.

"I have worked closely with Jo Stallard from the Stratford District Theatre Trust. This year, the festival will be held at the Theatre instead of Stratford High School, providing students with the fantastic opportunity to perform on the stage within a working theatre."

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Both Stratford High School and Taranaki Diocesan School have entries in this year's festival, as do New Plymouth Girls School, Sacred Heart and Spotswood.

The festival is an annual event involving more than half the country's secondary schools. During the regionals, students choose and perform a 15-minute adult or student-directed scene from a Shakespearean play, or a five-minute student-directed excerpt.

Schools from each region are then selected to go on to participate in the national festival, held in Wellington over the Queen's Birthday holiday weekend.

"The Festival scope is wide as students act, direct, serve as crew, compose music, write essays and create costumes, posters, static images and DVD covers for their performances. In 2017 68 per cent of performance's were student directed," says Emma.

Emma herself performed in the Festival in the mid 90s. This led to her performing in Geoff Allen's Romeo and Juliet at the Kings Theatre.

"It also fired up a passion for performing Shakespeare in me so much that after I finished drama school I was employed by a Shakespeare theatre company in the UK." Emma says.

Stratford High School and Taranaki Diocesan students have also been working with Kiwi actress Holly Shanahan in workshops working on language, acting and understanding Shakespeare, says Emma.

■ The Sheilah Winn Festival is being held at 1pm with a 6.45pm finish, Monday April 8 at the Kings Theatre. Ticketing is through door sales only. $5 per adult and gold coin donation for children.

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