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Mamaroneck Students Put On 39th Shakespeare Festival

Dee O'Brien fits Mamaroneck High School senior Josh Wrobel for his Peter Quince costume.
Dee O'Brien fits Mamaroneck High School senior Josh Wrobel for his Peter Quince costume. Photo Credit: Chaya Babu

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- The Semi-Royal Shakespeare Company, which comprises nearly 100 Mamaroneck High School students, is presenting two Shakespeare classics in a series of performances from March 7 to 10. This year's plays are "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "The Winter's Tale."

The annual festival is in its 39th year in Mamaroneck, making the SRSC the oldest continuous high school Shakespeare troupe in the country, the organization said. Dee O'Brien, who started the company when she was an English teacher at Hommocks Middle School, acts as the director of all the productions and even makes and styles the costumes .

"For 10 years, it was kids in my English class, and now I have the children of those kids who performed Shakespeare with me all those years ago," said O'Brien, who taught from 1971 to 2007. “We have tremendous support from the district.”

O'Brien and the students started preparing in November and have put in many long hours since then. The actors on stage as well as those involved in production make the Shakespeare Festival a big part of their extracurricular experience.

"It's a huge commitment - each play rehearses three days a week, and then as we get into February, they come almost every day including Saturdays," said Marian Presberg, whose twin boys are each in a different play. "The kids love it, they do stuff together, and they feel like they’re a family. It’s great for the freshmen because they get to know the older kids in a smaller environment. It’s an amazing program.”

Senior Maya Samach is playing Titania in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," but she got involved by just working on props when she was in eighth grade. Samach said one of the best parts about participating is the sense of community that is fostered.

"It’s such a random group of kids. It’s not just people who love theater, so you meet people you wouldn’t otherwise, which is a unique experience at a high school," she said.

Along with the teenagers, a group of mothers are helping with production as well. O'Brien calls them her "League of Extraordinary Women."

“Whatever Dee needs, we want to do -- we’re the worker bees," Presberg said. "She’s got an incredible vision and she really makes Shakespeare come to life for these kids. She gets them to understand how profound Shakespeare is and how beautiful it all is.”

Seniors in the production this year are:  Daniel Baigel, Teddy Bellis, Jospehina Brauning, Peter Callahan, Olivia Cipriano, Nick Gallagher, Michael Genecin, Emily Horing, Mojdeh Kamaly, Ben Kaplan, Kate Leddy, Sonya Levine, Simon Levinson, Lindsey Manetta, Bob Phillips, Maya Samach, Sam Segan, Ryan Solomon, Ben Stolman, Matt Stolman, Lily Turovsky and Josh Wrobel.

There will be three public performances of each play, with two different casts for each.  All performances will be at the Hommocks Richard North Auditorium. For more information on show times and tickets, visit the group's website .

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