Each season, the First Stage Young Company (the advanced, college-level acting troupe consisting of area highschoolers) takes on one of Shakespeare's plays, and I have yet to see them fail to do it justice; this is certainly the case with The Comedy of Errors.
This hillarious tale of a most unlikely family reunion takes mistaken identities to a whole new level, courtesy of a set of twins who were separated at birth. Miraculously, each set of twins end up going by the same name, and paired with the other's brother; thus, there is Antipholus of Syracuse (Megan Watson) and his man, Dromio (Sydney Salter), as well as Antipholus of Ephesus (Grace Becker) and his man, Dromio (Alex Salter). The fact that the Dromios are actually played by twins makes the farce all the more confusing and hilarious.
The two men of Syracuse go to Ephesus to find their brothers. When they do not return, their father, Aegeon (Abby Barbeau), goes looking for them, but is arrested when he cannot pay the Trader's fine. He tells the Duke (Ariana Padovano) the tale of his wife and twins, and the Duke grants him more time to pay. Meanwhile, the family and friends of Antipholus and Dromeo of Ephesus have come across the versions from Syracuse, and the wild ride begins! What transpires is a 17th century version of "Who's on First" that audiences will love.
Three cast members from the production hail from Cedarburg, including CHS Senior, Teddy Esten, who plays Adriana, the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus. What's interesting about Teddy's role is that, in Shakespeare's time, the female roles were all played by men, as women were not allowed to be actors. Teddy, however, is doing just the opposite.
"Ever since the show was announced last year, there were rumors that it was going to be cross-gendered," Teddy explained. "I had mixed feelings at the beginning, solely because my favorite character was not one of the females (It's actually Antipholus of Syracuse). However, once we got around to casting, I was super stoked to be playing Adrianna... she's a hilarious character."
Fellow CHS students, Grace Reasoner and Sam Crevenston, play merchants in The Comedy of Errors. Grace was in the fall play with Teddy at CHS, but didn't know Sam until rehearsals began, while Sam has known Teddy for years, but was happy to get to know Grace in this production. All three students are bonafide fans of The Bard.
"I will always believe that, no matter how old it gets, Shakespeare's work will always be incredibly relevant," Teddy said. "Social issues have this way of sticking around throughout all time, and the issues adressed in Shakespearean plays are still present and are therefore adressed in the same way. Not only is it relevant to society, but his masterpieces have a great educational value, as well."
Grace was introduced to Shakespeare not through school, but through First Stage. "I am definitely a fan!" she said. "The number one thing on my Christmas list this year is individual copies of Shakespeare's plays. Since I haven't had too much exposure to Shakespeare before joining Young Company, I am taking it upon myself to delve into the depths of his works."
Sam, on the other hand, came across Shakespeare early on: "I have had a very large amount of exposure to Shakespeare throughout the course of my life, and I am a huge fan."
Besides their love of Shakespeare, the three have a common love of First Stage. "First Stage has been amazingly impactful on me," Teddy said. "I have learned almost everything I know about theatre from my teachers there -- specifically John Maclay and Matt Daniels. These two men have helped me grow infinitely as a performer and as a human. I can't thank the people at First Stage enough. On top of the people who work there, the environment that has been established is unlike any other. The people are all so kind and accepting to everyone. That in itself has shaped the way I view people. Everyone's individualism is just brought out in the best way, and it's really refreshing."
Young Company has three more performances left for The Comedy of Errors: Saturday, December 17th at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday, December 18th at 3:30. All performances take place at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W Walnut Street in Milwaukee. Tickets ($14) may be purchased at www.FirstStage.org/Comedy or through the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961.
About First Stage
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in the 2016-2017 season, First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young audiences and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs uses theater to promote active learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students throughout southeastern Wisconsin each year. In 2012, First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. First Stage is the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award in 2013 and 2015, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts. First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).