Knighthorse Theater Company performs Shakespeare: English students watch unique adaptations of traditional plays

Adi Levin, Staff Writer

English students watched performances of Shakespeare’s plays on April 17 when Knighthorse, a traveling nonprofit theater company, presented a number of unique renditions of William Shakespeare’s plays throughout the day.  According to the troupe, its mission is to bring classic plays to high school students in a way that’s both exciting and relatable. Knighthorse’s visit was coordinated by Ms. Lisecki and other English teachers and funded by the Port Washington Foundation Helping Enrich the Arts, or HEARTS.

“It’s this husband-wife duo, bringing a truly unique Shakespeare experience to students,” said Shakespeare teacher Ms.  Donna Valenti. “Since it’s geared towards small audiences, and much of the performance is ad lib, it becomes much more relatable to teenagers.”

For many, the Bard’s language can be tricky to understand. Knighthorse attempts to remedy that by getting students involved in the stories they tell.  By making jokes and getting the audience to participate, the actors allowed the students to experience Shakespeare’s plays in a new way. Rather than repeating age-old monologues and reciting well-known sonnets, Knighthorse performed Shakespeare’s plays in a language that everyone could understand.

“Knighthorse was different from conventional performances of Shakespeare because it was a lot more interactive. They actually explained the plays in modern-day English,” said freshman Cameron Helman.

Knighthorse actors put on multiple performances throughout the day. The experience left a lot to the imagination.

“We are not constrained by the ‘fourth wall’ because for us it doesn’t even exist,” said the official Knighthorse website.  “Actor and audience occupy the same space. We touch you, talk to you, sit down next to you. We turn on all the lights because we need to see you.”

Using only a couple of actors and very few props, viewers were able to have a more interactive experience than a traditional play might provide.

“Knighthorse is incredible, because they can do so much with so few actors. It’s really a great experience,” said English teacher Ms. Michal Cohan.

The performance provided an opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s stories firsthand, and provided a lead-in to Shakespeare Day the following week.

Ninth grade students had the opportunity to see excerpts from Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in the morning, while sophomores saw Macbeth later in the day. Knighthorse actors additionally worked with students in Theatre Arts, World Literature, and Shakespeare classes.