The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

Shakespeare comes alive

Slam team lights up the stage at Final Bout

The Shakespeare Slam team brought down the house at the final competition on Monday, Dec. 11. The team was one of 20 from high schools around the region to make it into the Chicago 2023 Shakespeare Slam: Final Bout.

The competition took place at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. The main stage, a 500- seat, three-story theater, was filled with students and their supporters.

An array of lights flashed around the theater, and DJ Enrique Arroyo supplied the space with tons of energy and music. The night’s two emcees, Kenesha Reed and Arik Vega, kicked off the night by warming up the crowd with the wave and audience interaction. They maintained the energy throughout the show by sharing Shakespearean facts and anecdotes in between performances.

The OPRF team included Simone Arvetis, Alex Robinson Bellin, Anna Bullock, Gayatri Gadvhi, Afton Jennings, Rowan Neville, Lauren Rainey, Ellie Shea, Jude Kennedy (peer coach), Teddy Nielsen (peer coach) and James Bell (teacher coach).

Their first performance included selections from “Hamlet.” Their rendition had a favorable outcome, as laughter filled the room and appeared to impress the judges, who were laughing harder than anyone else. Shea’s dynamic interaction with the audience as she entered the theater from the back got a huge reaction, and the laughs only grew from there.

“Judges complimented our ensemble, work and team connectness,” said Bell.

Later in the competition, the team performed in the “Dream” round, in which students used the words of Shakespeare to create a completely fresh story.

The OPRF team offered their take on “Romeo and Juliet.”

Shakespeare Slam team announces themselves (Ryan Scott)

The “Dream” gives students the chance to rearrange Shakespeare’s text into a play all their own. OPRF’s “Dream” came from “trying to look at the ways social media and texting affects relationships between teens,” said Bell.

While the OPRF team did not come home with a prize, they still considered the evening a success. “Unfortunately we didn’t make the top three teams, but we’re definitely happy and proud with what we performed with confidence,” said Arvetis. The results concluded in Linbloom Math and Science Academy’s favor, while Mundelein High School and Niles North High School were runners up.

Shakespeare Slam has been part of the OPRF community for more than 12 years. Under the guidance of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Chicago 2020 Shakespeare Slam offers a platform for schools across the Chicagoland area to explore the heights and depths of Shakespearean drama.

Arvetis, a senior serving as co-captain, reflected on her journey from classroom curiosity to active participation. Arvetis played Horatio in the Little Theater production of “Hamlet” last year, also directed by Bell, and was inspired to continue the world of Shakespeare’s expression. Arvetis finds the experience rewarding. “I just love being there,” she said. “It’s a great environment with great people.”

Some people avoid Shakespeare because the archaic language is not easy to comprehend. Bell said that Shakespeare “gets put on this pedestal because there are lots of different ways to study it.” Despite this, Slam is all about interpretation, and “the ability to mess with it and manipulate it in ways that tell your own story, not just a play that was written 400 years ago,” he said.

Shea, a sophomore, was recommended to join Shakespeare Slam after her experiences in the production of “Hamlet,”in which she played a grave digger.

Shea views the Slam as an opportunity to enhance her acting skills and appreciates the chance to “put myself out there.”

She said she is content with how everything came out, “especially seeing how the writing process came together for the second round.”

The “Dream” round was the result of hard work by Shakespeare Slam students. As rehearsals intensified, captains Arvetis and senior Lauren Rainey sat down and worked through staging and specific language choices every late arrival Wednesday to “create a fluid and new scene,” said Arvetis.

The result: diverse interpretations that showcased a blend of Shakespearean quintessence and modern creativity.


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