UTAH TECH UNIVERSITY'S STUDENT NEWS SOURCE | September 28, 2022

‘Arden Forest’ gives children look at Shakespeare

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With only three trees, five boxes and a few sound effects, actresses in this semester’s children’s theater production continue to charm their elementary school audiences.

Seven students in the children’s theater class are cast as major Shakespearean female characters in “An Arden Forest Dream, where all seven of these characters meet in the Arden Forest, the forest found in “As You Like It.”

Hanna Rahilly, theater adviser and lecturer, wrote the play over Christmas break after only females had signed up for the class.

“It’s great for the actresses, the college students, because they get to play a Shakespeare character and research it,” Rahilly said. “They’re not playing the character in that play that [the character is] from, but they’re playing it in a new play.”

Rahilly said she wrote for about three days, and the entire time she had to keep the audience in mind plus what she wanted to accomplish with “An Arden Forest Dream.”

“It’s written in order to inspire child audiences to want to see more Shakespeare,” Rahilly said.

Shakespeare works can be difficult to understand—even for adults—with complex plots, characters and language. “An Arden Forest Dream” is less complex than of the original stories because it only includes setting and characters from the original stories, Rahilly said. 

Only 30 minutes long, the play includes some notable characters, including Titania from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Beatrice from “Much Ado About Nothing.”

“There’s some symbolism behind ‘Arden Forest,’ which goes along the lines of when characters enter into the Arden Forest, they become their true selves or the essence of themselves,” Rahilly said.

The class rehearsed the play for a month and are traveling to various elementary schools in the area twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Rahilly said the play is accomplishing the idea she had when she wrote it, which was to get children interested in Shakespeare.

“[The children are] just on the edge of their seats,” Rahilly said.

Nancy Pratt, a freshman music major from Payson, said this is the first time she’s taken an acting class, and the experience has been gratifying.

“I’ve been able to take what my professors have been teaching me and apply it to my acting,” Pratt said.

Pratt is cast as Rosalind from “As You Like It.”

Becky Collins, a freshman theater major from Brigham City, is cast as Olivia from “Twelfth Night.” Collins said acting for children has made her realize what improvements she could make to her acting and the amount of energy it takes.

“If you’re not focused, the kids will let you know,” Collins said. 

There will also be an on-campus performance on April 11 at 10:30 a.m. in the Black Box Theatre in the Eccles building and is free to the general public.