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The student-produced play is the culmination of a year-long class dedicated to Shakespeare

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN
 - Mason Thornton (second from left) plays the lead role in Newberg High School's production of 'Julius Caesar,' which continues Thursday through Saturday in Drea Ferguson Auditorium.

For one more weekend, Newberg High School will perform Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," a historical tragedy based on the Roman politician's life.

NHS theater director Michael McConaughey said the play was put on entirely by juniors and seniors at the school, as part of the regular Shakespeare class. Most things, from costumes and set design, are created by the students. McConaughey said there are about 65 students involved total, including a cast of 40, all of whom collaborated throughout the year to put on the show.

"It's a good exercise for them to see how to approach Shakespeare," he said, adding some students have been a part of Shakespeare productions in the past, although many have not. "It's always a good experience for them to figure out how to access the language."

The play kicked off last week, running April 18-20. It picks up again at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The troupe are working with a "thrust stage," which is also known as a platform or open stage. It extends toward the audience on three sides. McConaughey said this makes for a "very intimate, very close up" performance." There is only room for about 130 seats, so reserving a seat ahead of time would be a good idea. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Doors open at the Drea Ferguson Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. To reserve tickets call 503-544-5035 and leave a message and tickets will be available at will call.

McConaughey said last year, when students also used a smaller stage, most shows were nearly sold out. And this year the cast is nearly twice as large, so he anticipates full audiences.

The thrust stage is good experience for the students, Mcconaughey said, in that it helps show them the different kind of set designs for once they go on to college or leave high school.

This year's play was chosen last year by the juniors in the class, who are now seniors. He said every year in the class, the juniors in May read the different possible shows and begin presentations on what they read. After debate and discussion, they settle on what the next year's class will take on. Then, after the new school year starts, the audition process begins in October, and students work all the way into April to prepare for their performances. As part of the class, students also go to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

Typically, the students set the plays in some form of a different location or time period than when the play is set. However, the students wanted to take on a traditional setting this year.

"We're trying to play it relatively traditional," McConaughey said. "'Julius Caesar' has had some more modern adaptions in the recent past and we're not taking that route. They wanted to do it very traditionally."

But going the traditional Shakespearean route and setting the play in ancient Rome did come with challenges. For example, they had to make costumes – sandals and togas – for a cast of 40 actors, which proved difficult in some ways.

But it's all part of the process.

"It's been a great learning experience for them," McConaughey said.

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