MAMARONECK, N.Y. Students who perform each year in the Semi-Royal Shakespeare Company treat the 38-year Mamaroneck and Larchmont institution like a family.
The company is the longest-running high school Shakespeare company on record in the U.S., according to Mamaroneck School District officials. This year, its founder and director for all 38 years, Dee O'Brien, chose to stage Richard III and Merry Wives of Windsor.
Sarah Mesiter, a senior at Mamaroneck High School, will perform as Mistress Page in Merry Wives of Windsor, opening Friday at 8 p.m. in the Hommocks Auditorium. Her younger brother David will perform as Sir Robert Brackenbury in Richard III.
"Shakespeare is totally a family affair," said Mesiter, adding that it has become common among present and past cast members to have a family member also involved.
Mesiter joined the company, which has staged two plays each year for 38 years, as a freshman. That year, she played a "typical freshman role" in Romeo and Juliet, along with her fellow four-year cast member David Cruikshank, who will play Frank Ford in Merry Wives of Windsor. Cruikshank said his mother helps out backstage.
Felicia Levinson and her sons, Simon and James, are another mother-son connection that spans 30 years. Felicia performed Midsummer Nights Dream with the company more than 30 years ago. Now, Simon, a junior, is the lighting and technical manager for Richard III, and James, a freshman, plays the role of Simple in the Merry Wives of Windsor.
"It's so exciting for me to have my sons carry on the family tradition of being involved with the Semi-Royal Shakespeare Company," said Felicia, who went on to dance professionally with the national tour of 42nd Street, and currently writes musical theatre. "They are so fortunate to have this unique opportunity to work with Dee, who makes Shakespeare accessible, challenging and fun all at the same time."
Another young actor, Harrison Frank, has also been a part of the company all four years of high school. Although he doesn't have any family involvement, he said the people in the company have become his family.
"We're like a family and we're not going to break that up," Frank said.
Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults and can be purchased in advance in the Mamaroneck High School overpass every day until the show between 11 a.m. and noon, or at the door. Visit the Mamaroneck schools website for more information.
Performance schedule is as follows:
"Merry Wives of Windsor"
- Friday at 8 p.m.
- Saturday at 2 p.m.
- Sunday 7 p.m.
- Thursday 7:30 p.m.
- ?Saturday 8 p.m.
- ?Sunday 1 p.m.
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