The Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company recently performed its monologue showcase. The group, also referred to as "SETSCO," is partnering with the West Florida Public Library for a year of events promoting Shakespeare’s work.
Each of the student actors chose and prepared a monologue out of the Shakespeare canon for their annual monologue showcase. J.D. Thiemann joined SETSCO four years ago. One of the monologues he performed that evening was the St. Crispin’s Day speech from “Henry V.”
“It’s one I always wanted to do,” Thiemann said. “I thought it was a challenge for me. When I first started out doing Shakespeare, with this group specifically, I had considered doing it for showcases, but I always stayed away from it because I was kind of afraid. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it honestly because it’s so heavy, and these men are going into potentially imminent death. It’s a suicide mission they’re forced to go on.”
Another member of the company is Molly Kegley, a junior in high school. She has been with SETSCO for a year. She performed Shakespeare’s Sonnet #29, one of her favorites. Each piece requires research and preparation to accurately convey the meaning of the text to the audience.
“I would look first at nouns, and I would look at why he might have put them in there, and then I look into what he’s referring to,” Kegley said. “Like, for the word “thee,” “thee” as in the person, I had to put so much meaning behind that, because the love that he feels for the person is so strong, I wanted to communicate that.”
Kegley became interested in Shakespeare’s work after reading “Romeo and Juliet” in school. She says she hopes to major in English when she goes to college and study at a conservatory for theater.
“I started looking at all the different plays of the world, all the different people who make their characters human, who bring that humanity to the stage. And so, Shakespeare, for me, it really got me into acting,” Kegley said.
SETSCO was founded in 2006 by the then-education director of Pensacola Little Theatre. Michelle Hancock has been director of the company since 2008.
“We do one full-length production every year,” Hancock said. “Last year we did Macbeth. This year we’re doing The Taming of the Shrew. It’s a working company throughout the year.”
The company has performed at renaissance faires in Mobile and Pensacola, the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, the University of West Florida’s Festival on the Green and Gulf Breeze Arts Festival last year. The students perform an annual monologue showcase in the winter. Hancock says there is an additional challenge to preparing to perform the short pieces for an audience.
“Taking something out of context and trying to make it make sense is actually more difficult that watching an entire play, because you understand the context for it and you understand the things that are happening,” Hancock said.
The student actors hosted a workshop for teens at the Tryon Branch library to help them prepare for the upcoming annual Speak the Speech competition. Teens in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are invited to learn and perform a monologue. The winner will have a supporting role in SETSCO’s upcoming production of The Taming of the Shrew. The group also leads a weekly Shakespeare club at the downtown library.
“We’re a teen company, and so we want to open out Shakespeare to kids and adults, just anybody, and that’s what Shakespeare club is for.”
The Speak the Speech competition will take place at the downtown library, as part of the library’s Year of Shakespeare programming, in honor of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday this April.
More information about the Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company and their upcoming events is available at setsco.org.
Katya Ivanov, WUWF News