Putting a fresh and engaging twist on Shakespearean classic tales, the Chamberlain’s Children are about to stage The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Lacombe Performing Arts Centre.
Shows run Nov. 18 and 19 and admission is by donation. Curtain is at 1 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 18 and at 1 p.m. on Nov. 19. A concession will also be available.
The Lacombe-based youth theatre group was launched about seven years ago initially as a means for Emily Elder to teach her children about the wonders of Shakespeare.
“I started when I wanted to teach my kids about Shakespeare. I read a book about doing that, and the author talked about how when he was growing up, his family was in Shakespeare theatre productions.
“He explained about how it all really helped him to have a love for Shakespeare, and it helped him with the language, too.”
Elder, who directs the plays, was really struck by the idea of performance, and how that would absolutely bring these amazing stories to life for youngsters.
“I was like, why don’t we put on a performance?” Folks got onboard, and they staged their first production outdoors. ‘It was kind of like a Shakespeare in the park type of thing,” she recalled. “And it just grew from there. We became a lot more organized and just kept learning new things, too.”
Audiences have also grown to really appreciate the productions. The group has tackled classic comedies like Much Ado About Nothing to the famous tragedies, such as Macbeth and Hamlet.
As Elder pointed out, Shakespearean plays often aren’t a favourite of students when they are simply read in class. “They are meant to be watched and performed! And the kids love it - they love Shakespeare, they quote it, and they learn so much,” she said, adding that the plays are filled with so much to enjoy.
“I think the stories are great, and I also think we can learn a lot about ourselves (through them) as well. There are times when a certain quote will come back to you, and you will think how true it is,” she added.
The group has two different age categories - junior and senior.
And initially, the group staged one show a year, and then two were produced annually.
For The Merry Wives of Windsor, both age categories - which number about 30 altogether - have joined forces for the production which will also feature a fun 1980s twist as well.
“It’s a fun one to make a more modern version of,” she said. For Much Ado About Nothing, the play was set in the 1940s. The ability to do this with Shakespearean material ultimately shows how timeless the plays really are, she said.
“I also edit the scripts, especially for the younger kids, but I try to keep it as close to the original as possible,” she explained.
“And it always comes together! I also love how the kids get ideas, and say, ‘Why don’t we try this in this part?’ So it’s also fun in that it’s kind of a group effort as well,” she said.
For Elder, overseeing such a talented troupe is a joy.
“I love watching the kids grow,” she said. “And it’s fun - I love drama. By the last show (of a particular production), I’m already thinking about the next one!”
Admission to the performance is by donation and seats can be reserved by emailing Emily Elder at Chrisjelder78@gmail.com.