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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Passing Shakespeare Forward

From our 2013 youth production director, Maggie Austin:

I was in the first Flatwater Youth production, Henry V, and since then I went on to act in and direct a lot of Shakespeare. I've worked here at The Haymarket Theatre, with the Nebraska Girls Shakespeare Company, and with Flatwater Shakespeare's adult productions. My love of Shakespeare was fueled by that first production, in which I played the messenger, Mountjoy, who says

For many of our princes – woe the while! –

Lie drown'd and soak'd in mercenary blood;

So do our vulgar drench their peasant limbs

In blood of princes, and their wounded steeds

Fret fetlock deep in gore and with wild rage

Yerk out their armed heels at their dead masters,

Killing them twice. O, give us leave, great kind,

To view the field in safety and dispose

Of their dead bodies!

These words showed me the truth that Shakespeare's words convey – with beauty, pain, honesty, and grace. Throughout the process of directing Much Ado About Nothing, I have watched these kids discover these qualities in Shakespeare's language. All I can say is that helping them to discover Shakespeare in a way that relates to them has meant a lot to me. This play explores themes that these kids face daily – reputation, social pressure, rumors – in a context that they can truly connect to – a high school. This process has been rewarding for everyone, and I hope that it makes a lasting impression on them.


We want to applaud Maggie and her cast (and Jordan Deffenbaugh's work behind the scenes) for telling the story of Much Ado with clarity and heart. The production inhabited the dual settings of Early Modern Messina and a 1990s U. S. high school vividly and convincingly.

We also want to thank Maggie for sharing her story – and to applaud some of the individuals and groups who helped make possible Maggie's journey from student and actor to teacher and director. Tom Crew and Fred Stuart were in charge of that first collaborative youth production presented by Flatwater Shakespeare and The Haymarket Theatre. Melissa Lewis was an invaluable mentor for the Nebraska Girls Shakespeare Company. Humanities Nebraska (formerly the Nebraska Humanities Council) has generously supported each summer's encounter between Shakespeare and Lincoln's young actors. 

Photo: Daniel Carraher as Leonato and Kat Palagi as Hero in the Flatwater Shakespeare / Haymarket Theatre youth co-production of Much Ado About Nothing. Photo Credit (and Thanks!): Jami Lea Photography.