DIXFIELD – Shakespeare’s characters are intense.

John Smith, a senior at Dirigo High School, likes reading the bard’s plays, and he has written at least two reports on the writer. He has read “Julius Caesar” and “Twelfth Night,” and on Monday afternoon, after a workshop on theatrical productions by The Theater At Monmouth professional troupe, he and more than 300 high school students watched an updated version of the early 17th century Shakespearean tragedy “Macbeth.”

“I like the way he uses the language. There’s a lot of love and hate, someone dies. It’s a little extreme,” he noted, but added the emotions are the same as people share in the 21st century.

Intense is the term several students used as they described their pre-performance experiences with the “Macbeth” cast, who led them through a series of preparations they never really thought about before.

Jesse Beaudet, a senior, was one student who attended a workshop on the choreography of stage fighting.

He watched actors Todd Quik and Andy Stokan demonstrate how to safely, but convincingly, stage a theatrical battle scene with the use of quarterstaffs – long, hardwood shafts used for attack and defense by warriors dating back to Medieval times.

Choreography was something he had never considered as an important part of a theatrical production, said Beaudet as Quik and Stokan demonstrated the moves.

Elizabeth Swan, a senior, took part in theatrical preparations led by the actress who plays Lady Macbeth, Jessica Pohly.

“We really got involved,” she said. She looked forward to the play because she prefers tragedies to comedies.

Pohly, who performed in “Romeo and Juliet” last year, said she was privileged to play Lady Macbeth and to use Shakespearean English.

Shiloh Felt, another senior, said the pre-play preparations helped her understand the sometimes difficult language.

“The relationships are really intense,” she said.

Although the language used in the production was Shakespearean, other parts of the play were updated, such as wearing contemporary clothing and the use of guitars.

“We wanted to make it come alive for them,” said Maryanne Archard, the school’s librarian, who organized the visit by the troupe. “We like to have the kids see the professionals.”

She said “Romeo and Juliet” was performed last year and the school had planned to wait before bringing The Theater At Monmouth back, but sophomores are reading “Macbeth,” so a decision was made to use some grant money from GEAR-UP and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Students in rural Maine towns including Caribou, Woodland, Limestone, Belfast, Gardiner and Presque Isle, have a chance to share in the excitement of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” as the professional cast from The Theater At Monmouth tours the state.

The tragedy will be performed in Bucksport today, then at Telstar High School in Bethel on Wednesday.

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