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Bellmore-JFK Drama performs Shakespeare at a social distance

‘Shakespeare Revued’ offers live theatre for the first time in months

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Students in John F. Kennedy High School’s drama club are using William Shakespeare’s famous phrase — “All the world’s a stage” — to their advantage. When the district cleared the club to hold its production, “Shakespeare Revued,” in the school’s outdoor courtyard, cast and crew members went to work to bring the playwright’s works to life on stage, an opportunity that has mostly been lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Doing Shakespeare outside is a longstanding tradition,” said director Dr. Joseph Hoffman, a speech/language teacher in the North Merrick School District, “so we thought if we could use the courtyard, this might be the perfect show.”

“Shakespeare Revued” is a conglomeration of Shakespearean scenes, soliloquies and sonnets mixed with modern musical numbers based on his works, including “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from “Kiss Me Kate!” and “Tonight” from “West Side Story.”

“It allows students to work on some classic texts . . . but also a chance to do something more fun,” Hoffman said. “We only got together live two weeks ago to put it all on its feet, but the kids did really well with it.”

The Herald spoke with JFK Drama officers Daniel Delgado, Faith Poveromo and Dylan Krapf before opening night to get a backstage look at “Shakespeare Revued.”

“This is a new experience for the cast and the audience since our performances are always in the auditorium,” said Krapf, 16, of Bellmore. “The staging expands throughout the courtyard and within the school as well. For example, during the iconic ‘Romeo and Juliet’ balcony scene, Gabrielle [Levine] is saying her lines from a classroom window on the second floor.”

The crew — who will be wearing masks throughout the production — also set up lighting equipment in second- and third-story classrooms to beam spotlights and projections in to the courtyard; other members will run sound from a gazebo behind the audience.

In addition to their costumes, each actor is outfitted with a mask. To maintain social distancing, scenes are staged 12 feet apart so students can safely perform without their masks. When they move about the courtyard or are less than six feet away from other castmates, the actors will put their masks on.

Delgado, 17, of Bellmore, said auditions and rehearsals were conducted virtually via Zoom during the first two weeks of hybrid learning. “It went a lot smoother than I thought,” he said. “This sets up a good reputation for JFK Drama — we’re taking the hardships and putting on a show for people who haven’t seen theatre in half a year.”

Poveromo, 17, of Bellmore, said she hopes the format of “Shakespeare Revued” can inspire other drama clubs and performance companies to bring back theatre to the masses while working within Covid-19 restrictions. “This show is unlike anything that’s going on right now,” she said. “No one’s able to do live theatre, so we’re very lucky to have the courtyard and play with this advantage.”

“For Kennedy to give the students an opportunity to perform and work in this creative outlet is definitely necessary,” Hoffman added. “The kids have enjoyed working on this, and it will give the community an opportunity to see live entertainment and engage with other people.”

“Shakespeare Revued” premieres tonight in the Kennedy High School Courtyard (3000 Bellmore Ave., Bellmore) at 7 p.m. There will be four additional performances on Friday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 24, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Tickets are free and must be reserved ahead of time. All guests must wear a mask.