Folger Festival Fun for WestPo’s “Witty Fools”

West Potomac's Witty Fools perform at the yearly Folger Shakespeare Festival, winning several awards.

The Witty Fools do a final blocking walkthough on the Folger stage before the Festival begins.

Staff photo

The Witty Fools do a final blocking walkthough on the Folger stage before the Festival begins.

Noor Javaid, Opinions Editor

As part of its annual six-day Secondary School  Shakespeare Festival every March, the Folger Shakespeare Library opened  its doors to several groups of talented students from around the DC Metro area, allowing them to perform excerpts of Shakespeare’s works upon the Folger’s stage. On March 12th, the last day of the Festival, West Potomac was represented by The Witty Fools, a student troupe dedicated to bringing Shakespeare’s plays into the classroom and on the stage, sponsored by English teacher Colin O’Grady.

The first school that graced the stage was Beltsville Academy from Maryland. With their amazing rendition of King Lear, Beltsville wowed the crowd with their intensity. They were followed by Westland Middle School, also from Maryland, whose troupe put in a vibrant and funny performance of  scenes from “The Taming of the Shrew.”

Robinson Secondary School from Fairfax County put their own spin on their retelling of “The Winter’s Tale,” adapting the storyline and amazing costumes to match gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology. A riveting rendition of “Julius Caesar” was provided by Montgomery Blair High School from Maryland, using a minimalist performance to give the audience a new perspectives on the play’s key themes of honor and loyalty.

West Potomac’s Witty Fools presented their compilation of a variety of famous comedic scenes of mistaken or hidden identity from Shakespeare’s plays, linked by the theme “I Am Not What I Am.” Their performance was incredibly well received, garnering a standing ovation from many in the audience.  T.C. Williams from Alexandria followed with their excellent spin on “All’s Well That Ends Well,” turning in a crisp and clear performance from a play famous for its sophisticated and convoluted plot.  

Like West Potomac, the performance of “Henry V” by the Queen Elizabeth School from the United Kingdom blew the audience away with their powerful interpretation, concluding with a requiem sung by one of the students that also earned them a standing ovation. The eighth and final performance of the day was given by Lake Braddock Secondary School from Fairfax County, spinning several scenes of mayhem and murder from the Bard’s plays into a piece they titled “Kill Bill, Vol. 3.” Their performance kept the audience on the edge of their seats with suspense, which was broken up periodically by some particularly well-performed pieces of comic relief.

 One of the most unique features of this year’s Festival was the Folger Theatre stage itself. Modified from its traditional proscenium style for the theatre’s run of “Richard III,” the stage was surrounded on all sides by risers of seats and balconies, so that the performances were done “in the round.” All of the acting troupes said that they enjoyed the challenge and opportunity of having the audience sit around them on all sides. It is very likely that they will be the only Festival participants to ever experience this, as the Folger has no plans in the future to alter the stage again after it is restored to its original form.

At the end of the Festival, several awards were presented to individual actors as well as the troupes by the two commentators on hand to provide feedback and suggestions to the students after their performances. West Potomac’s Witty Fools received the following awards: Emma Norville, “Excellence in Acting,” for her role as Rosalind; Alyssa Denton, “Commitment to Character,” for her over-the-top and physical Dromeo, Andrew Schurr and Mattie Lebowitz, “Dyanmic Duo,” for their heartfelt and convincing portrayals of Antipholus and Luciana; and perhaps the most prestigious award of the Festival went to Dan Evans, the “Peggy O’Brien Award for Comedy,” for his brilliant, commanding perfomance of Falstaff.

In anticipation of next year’s Festival, the Witty Fools are already starting to plan what they will present next year. This spring will see them bring mini-performances of Shakespeare’s plays into the classrooms of West Potomac and out to the community at large. Students interested in becoming a part of the troupe as an after-school activity should contact Mr. O’Grady for future meeting times — all students are welcome to join, whether they have acting experience or not, or have any familiarity with Shakespeare’s plays or not.