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Gering actors change up Shakespeare classic
November 25, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Photos by Kaycee Schmidt/Gering High School From left, Jim Eastman, Sydney Havengar and Dawson Johns perform “the play within a play” for Gering’s one-act production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Picture Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” taking place in a World War II air raid shelter in London during the German blitz of 1941. It happened onstage at Gering High School as students took part in a one-act play festival with several other schools.

The Nov. 16 one-act festival included high school casts from Gering, Scottsbluff, Bridgeport, Crawford and Alliance.

Co-director Tyler Thompson called the show a “frame narrative” to get the cast into the story of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but in a more contemporary setting.

“The premise of the show is the people in the shelter get their minds off the bombing by performing a play,” Thompson said. “This was a unique show and not typical Shakespeare.”

Co-director Jennifer Dillinger teaches science at Gering, but has been involved with one-act plays since high school and coached one-acts when she was teaching at Kimball. She also helped found a community theater group there.

“One-acts are interesting because anything goes,” Dillinger said. “If it’s between 15 and 30 minutes, it’s considered a play and can be performed. That makes choosing a play difficult. You want to do something that’s competitive and also good theater.”

Dillinger said she and Thompson knew they had good actors and wanted to challenge them by presenting a classic piece in a new setting. It preserves all the farcical elements of the original Shakespeare work, but at the end returns to “real life” in an air raid shelter.

Thompson said all three of the judges were very knowledgeable and offered the cast of 24 actors and 13 crew members with some great feedback.

Judges recognized seven Gering students for their outstanding acting performances. They included Faith Powell, Cole Bevins, Dawson Johns, Nathan Prohs, Carsyn Long, Isaiah Henderson and Sydney Havengar.

Additionally, the cast was awarded best technical performance, best set design, best costumes, and best ensemble.

“The judges liked what the kids were doing, which was encouraging,” Dillinger said. “We definitely have some things to work on and fine tune, but the kids are doing very well and have worked hard. They put together a show in a short period of time and it’s something to be proud of.”

Thompson said the cast included only about five or six students that were in the fall play last year. The rest are novices who had very little true theater experience.

“To see that kind of talent from newcomers and their ability to put together a show is very gratifying,” he said. We don’t have a conference competition but we’d like to see that added in the future,” Dillinger said. “We’ll perform in another festival in Kearney on Nov. 19 and a couple of performances for the public before districts on Dec. 3 in Lexington.”

Gering placed fifth at the Kearney festival. Carsyn Long, Cole Bevins and Sydney Havengar were selected for their outstanding performances.

The one-act play at Gering wasn’t a sanctioned district meet, but a “festival” competition for casts to perform and get some feedback on their performances.
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