When it comes to drama, the students at Redwood City's North Star Academy (NSA) aren't afraid of a challenge.
For roughly 15 years and counting, NSA has been putting on an annual Shakespeare production, featuring eighth-grade students and younger.
That's no small feat, both when it comes to today's challenging economic times for the arts in schools, and also when it comes to how challenging Shakespeare can be.
NSA takes that feat even one step further, by not only putting on the annual production, but also offering an elective class each year focusing solely on the works of Shakespeare.
This Thursday to Sunday, Oct. 18-21, NSA will present a production of Henry V.
"It's really incredible to have an annual Shakespeare class and production in a public school like this," said Karin Raab, whose son, Colin, will play the role of William Shakespeare himself in Henry V.
It's all thanks to Neva Hutchinson, who teaches the class and directs the annual production each year. Hutchinson says, even she sometimes can't believe the program is as successful as it is.
"I've found a niche here," Hutchinson told Patch. "And the parents are very supportive, helping with the costumes, the props, the programs."
Even Raab said, she is pleasantly surprised that such a young group of students doesn't shy away from a challenge like Shakespeare - especially with a play like Henry V, in which not only is the Shakespearean language difficult to interpret and memorize, but some of it is even in French, being that the play focuses on a battle between the British and French contingents.
Lori Sibun-Handler, a sixth-grader who plays a French lady-in-waiting, said it was actually fun trying to learn her lines in French.
"One of the moms speaks French, so she helped us with the pronunciation," Lori said. "Once I had the pronunciation down, it was easy."
Hutchinson said, usually the lead roles are given to eighth-graders who can more easily tackle such a large load of lines and memorization, but this year, she has some talented seventh-graders in lead roles, for the first time.
The lead role, King Henry V, is being played by seventh-grader Devin Dohrmann.
Devin said, "Henry V is a fun character to play, because the play really shows how much he changes [during the story], as things happen."
Mason Moss, a seventh-grader who is portraying the Earl of West Moreland, said he loves getting to step into a role that's so different from his own life.
"Just getting on the stage makes you feel great," he explained. "It's like getting to be a whole new person."
The production of Henry V is directed by Neva Hutchinson. The sword fights in the show are choreographed by NSA math teacher Brian Cagle, who has a background in martial arts. The costumes were coordinated by parent volunteer Hilary Borison, whose daughter, Sophie, an eighth-grader, is portraying Dauphine in the play.
See a commercial, starring the student actors of 'Henry V,' above in the photos/video section of this article.
When: Thursday, Friday & Saturday, Oct. 18-20 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m.
Where: McKinley Institute of Technology auditorium, 400 Duane St. in Redwood City
Tickets: $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Discounted tickets available for Thursday's and Sunday's shows: $8 for seniors and students under 18.
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