What do you get when you ask a bunch of ten to fifteen-year-olds to read Shakespeare? You might be thinking you’d get moans and groans, but if you’re Elana Kepner and Jason Coale, owners and founders of Whirligig Stage, the new theater and “destination for performing and visual arts and culture” in Uptown Greenville, North Carolina, you’d get sixteen kids who love Shakespeare. Sixteen kids who can recite most all of A Midsummer Nights’ Dream. Sixteen kids who laugh in all the right places, and who can tell you why they laughed.
When I first got the news that my daughter, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader, got the part of Puck in the play, I could hardly contain myself. “That’s the best part!” I yelled out in the middle of a friend’s kitchen at a party, my English teacher geek flag flying. After we jumped up and down for a few minutes, I have to admit, I started to think about what it meant that she was going to play a principal role in a Shakespearean comedy. I started to worry that she might be disappointed, that the kids might not like it or understand it, that going to rehearsal would become a chore. I should not have worried.
These kids, along with Artistic Director Kepner’s excellent and supremely patient teaching and guidance, have memorized and mastered this play. My son, a ten-year-old fourth grader, stayed for the majority of the rehearsals even though he is running the lights and not acting. He memorized the play by listening, and now he and my daughter crack Midsummer inside jokes as often as they reference Hamilton or Harry Potter or, heaven forgive me, Spongebob Squarepants. “Lord, what fools these mortals be.” Winky face.
Come out to Uptown this weekend and next weekend, November 8-11 and 15-17, to see the wondrous Whirligig Youth Academy perform William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream! And while you’re at it, why not make a night of it and support more of your locally owned businesses at the same time? Get some food beforehand at any of the fantastic, locally owned restaurants within walking distance of Whirligig like Dickinson Avenue Public House, Ford + Shep, Starlight Cafe, or Luna Pizza. Grab a craft beer afterwards at locally owned breweries Pitt Street Brewery or Trollingwood. Family friendly, promise!
Greenville is growing! Help keep the arts in Uptown and spread some Shakespeare love. Support Whirligig Stage! Tickets available here.