Meaghan Haugh
Local high school students perform at Rider's annual Shakesperience.

Local high school students perform at Rider's annual Shakesperience.

Rider University recently hosted the fourth annual Shakesperience: NJ, a two-day festival in which more than 130 middle-school and high school students, including two incoming Rider freshmen, had the chance to explore the world of William Shakespeare.

Students performed scenes and montages from Shakespeare’s various plays, including Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing and Richard III, on May 19 and 20 in the Yvonne Theater, located on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus.

Dr. Kathleen Pierce, chair of the Department of Graduate Education, Leadership, and Counseling, said the festival not only enables students to explore and interpret Shakespeare’s text, but it also provides students with the opportunity to meet their peers, as well as Rider faculty and staff. Several students who have participated in Shakesperience have chosen to continue their studies at the University, including Daniel Argese of Robbinsville High School, who will enter Rider in the fall as an acting scholar.

Troy Johnson and Jamie Kay, also Robbinsville High School seniors, recently had the chance to perform on stage at their future alma mater when they participated in the festival on May 19. Both students said they are looking forward to beginning their studies in Rider’s Westminster College of Arts in the fall.

“When I came here, I took the tour and I fell in love with the campus and the theater program,” Kay said.

A welcome addition to the program included morning workshops, led by Rider faculty members Trenton Blanton and Rebecca Simon, as well as Cam Magee, a teaching artist at the Folger Shakespeare Library and Ford’s Theatre. Students not only had a chance to explore topics such as voice, character status and stakes, and movement, but to interact with students from other schools, as well.

Alison Sussman, faculty adviser for The Robbinsville Raven Players, said the festival was a positive experience for her students.

“We were so lucky to have Rider professors involved in the workshops,” Sussman said. “It’s an excellent way to recruit students to a very strong and growing program.”

Participating schools and student groups also included The Pennington School; The Clearview Regional High School Shakespeareans; Willfully Yours, the Shakespearean Players; Teen Shakespeare Group; Woodglen Wildcat Players, Woodglen Middle School; and Cumberland Regional High School Players.

“I was thrilled with the caliber of the performances, as well as the serious sense of play that the students brought to the play,” Pierce said.

Current students and recent alumni also helped out during the two-day festival. Volunteers included John Dalesandro ’04, a seventh-grade Language Arts teacher in the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District; James Russo, a junior Fine Arts Theatre Major; Susan Masone ’09; Michael Scotto, a student in the Graduate Level Teacher Certification Program (GLTP); Dana Weinstein, a senior Secondary Education and English major; and Laura Moyer, a student in GLTP.

Shakesperience: NJ is a partnership between The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and Rider University with the support of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Cam Magee, a teaching artist at the Folger Shakespeare Library and Ford’s Theatre, will serve as the festival’s Mistress of the Revels.