For three days, Harrisburg Academy was entertained, educated, and charmed by 18 delightful students from the United Kingdom. The students are part of the Cambridge University American Stage Tour (CAST), founded by Dame Judi Dench in 2000, with the goal of bringing Shakespeare to American audiences. Co-sponsored by Harrisburg Academy’s Center for the Creative Arts and Center for Literary Studies, the visit culminated in a dynamic performance of “As You Like It” in front of 150 people in the McCormick Auditorium on Sept. 22, 2016.
The festivities began with a potluck dinner to welcome CAST to our community and to meet the host families with whom the visiting actors and technicians would be staying. A wonderful dinner was ready for them thanks to Patti Whitley, Kim Cole, Annette Spahr, Robyn Cutchall, our host families, and the ever-remarkable Chris Joyce.
For the students, though, it was probably the seven workshops conducted by these brilliant young Brits that will be remembered (and they will remember us, too — watch their brief thank you video). Throughout the day Thursday and on Friday morning, Harrisburg Academy students from Mrs. Sherman’s 4th grade class, Mrs. Haywood’s Middle School drama and performing arts classes, and nearly all Upper School students were drawn into the magic of acting and Shakespeare. The CAST crew had our younger students moving about like various characters, while our older students spoke lines from the play with differing interpretations, and our seniors discussed power and gender roles.
The performance of “As You Like It” was decidedly modern with many memorable and hilarious scenes. My personal favorites were with Charles the wrestler, Adam “measuring out (his) grave” in the forest, the junk food feast, and the battle of Audrey tattoos between William and Touchstone. The music was a delight as well.
As we celebrate our school’s commitment to supporting unique programs such as this one, we also have to recognize the Academy families who provide extra hands and help to make them possible — this time, a special thank you to the Haywoods, the Connellys, the Phillips, the Thompsons, the Whitleys, the Shumans, the Coles, the Niles, and the Witwers for hosting the CAST students and their tech team. “All the world’s a stage,” and you were an important part in enabling us to bring the world to our own stage here in Central Pennsylvania.