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Sandy Journal

Alta kicks off theater season with Shakespeare, ‘The Addams Family’

Oct 01, 2022 08:15PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Alta High alumna, and now Southern Utah University alumna, Lindsey Nelson has returned to the Hawk’s nest to team up with her high school theater teacher Linze Struiksma to help create and put into production a Shakespeare ensemble piece this fall.

Alta High students will perform a compilation piece that addresses equality of gender in Shakespeare’s pieces for the 46th annual high school Shakespearean competition, Sept. 29 through Oct. 1 in Cedar City.

“We’ve looked at a bunch of the women in Shakespeare’s pieces who are made to portray or be men and looking at the language,” Struiksma said. “Shakespeare constantly talks about the disparity of women asking, ‘Why are they the weaker sex or the gentler sex all of those things?’  We’re looking at why are we putting so much focus and weight on a gender to address a work or the contributions that somebody could make that shouldn’t be based on if they’re a man or if they're a woman? We examine ‘how do we allow all genders to have equality’ as the essence of the show. It’s Shakespeare's words, but we just strung different scenes together to create it.”

The two spent this summer collaborating pulling from “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Twelfth Night,” Joan of Arc in “Henry VI” and “Merchant of Venice” amongst others.

“We have a great message we're portraying and understanding that the message is important. If we leave people with that, then I'll be proud,” said Struiksma, who said that she’s had the idea to write this piece for a long time. “It’s been awesome to team up with Lindsey on this. She studied Shakespeare at SUU and I said that I’d like another set of eyes on this. We looked at which stories were going to help us tell the message best and really narrowed everything down we had compiled, then we put it together.”

In addition to the ensemble piece, Alta will take students to perform scenes and monologues at the competition. The theater students were to hold a Night of Shakespeare Sept. 28 at Alta to showcase their events for the community.

Soon after beginning to rehearse Shakespeare, students also were learning their lines, music and blocking for “The Addams Family,” which will be directed by Lindsey Cline, who joined the faculty last year.

The musical, which will have about 120 students participating, will open at 7 p.m., Nov. 16 and run through Nov. 19 and again on Nov. 21 in the school’s performing arts center, 11055 S. 1000 East. The night of Nov. 17 will feature the understudies. Tickets are $9 in advance in the school office or $10 at the door.

Cline, who studied musical theater under Terrence Mann at Western Carolina University, was in New York City when Mann reached out and was able to make arrangements for her to see the preview and final dress rehearsal for “The Addams Family” when it opened on Broadway in April 2010.

“That was so cool; I just love ‘The Addams Family,’” she said. “I love that this is a fun and unique show with these iconic characters that span several generations. A lot of folks are familiar with ‘The Addams Family’ in some way, but this musical is a cool twist on the characters in the story, which is really fun for actors. I also really love it is very much an ensemble piece and they are very involved throughout the show.”

Once the show is cast, she plans to have students study different adaptions of “The Addams Family,” including the television series, “to help them with their research of character development. We may look at several things from the Broadway show as well. I sometimes steer away from showing them other productions because I want them to make their own character decisions. I want them to feel they have that freedom to explore and create their own version of the character because that's one of the most exciting things to see is their creative process.”

Cline brings in her professional experience when working with students. She worked about seven years, based out of New York City, for different companies across the country. When she learned a position opened up at Alta, and at the same time was earning her master’s degree in theater education, she thought it would be a good fit. She started working at the high school in August 2021.

“Our students are pretty much in rehearsal in one show or another from about the second week of school until the end of school, and they're just, they're incredible. I can't say enough good things about the students in our program,” she said. “They step up and take leadership roles, in several ways, like with our improv team. Typically, they plan and hold club meetings and it's a great way to kind of hone your improv skills, hone your theatre skills and also have that really wonderful social connection.”

The fall lineup will conclude with a murder-mystery dinner written by the school’s improv captain, senior Alex Liljenquist. The shows will be at 5 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 9 and will serve as a fundraiser for the program to help with sets, productions or bringing in speakers.

“She wrote it over the summer and as soon as we strike the set for the musical, it will be cast and they’ll have two full weeks of intense rehearsal days to perform it on that Friday night,” Struiksma said. “They're really excited about it.”

The theme of the murder mystery won’t be announced until November, after students post clues about it during October.

“There are usually around 30 kids involved and it’s open to anyone to audition. We’ve had our improv club, or sometimes the ones who aren’t musical kids or Shakespeare, so it involves some students who aren’t in all our shows,” Struiksma said.

The rest of the season’s shows have yet to be released, however Alta will compete in the region one-act plays March 9 at Jordan High and then, the Hawks will host the region individual acts on March 23. State competition is in April. The season will conclude with student-directed one acts on May 10.