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Teen troupe has fun with Shakespeare

Youth theater group presents “Passing the Bard” in Auburn
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal features editor
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Consider the State Theatre Auburn’s own Globe Theatre for the next couple weekends. The Take Note Troupe presents the comedy and tragedy of high school life in its production of “Shakespeare 101: Passing the Bard,” which opens today for a six-performance stretch. The Take Note Troupe, also known as TNT, is a local nonprofit youth theater company, and the cast of “Shakespeare 101” includes teens from all over Placer County and beyond. LaRee Florence wrote “Shakespeare 101” and also serves as artistic director for the production, which TNT first staged three years ago. Shakespeare’s characters inspire a lot of the show’s roles, but the story centers on modern students. “The plot itself is about stereotypes and cliques and judgments about other people,” she said. “One of the reasons Shakespeare is so relevant is because he understood human nature so well. We need to reserve judgment and value people as individuals, look for commonalities rather than differences.” Joe is a quarterback, who needs help to pass a Shakespeare class. He seeks help from nerdy Aaron. “They end up becoming friends and learning not to judge others by appearance,” Florence said. Truman Florence, 15, is LaRee Florence’s son. He plays Aaron in “Shakespeare 101.” “He’s pretty much the nerd of the classroom,” Truman Florence said. Aaron, who has a huge crush on Suzy Q, captain of the cheer squad, isn’t completely selfless when he agrees to help Joe the jock with the class. “He tells me, ‘You help me with my presentation and I’ll set you up with Suzy Q,’” Florence said. Florence has had a great time portraying Aaron. “He’s a really fun character to play,” he said. “He’s so weird and quirky.” Another thing Florence likes about this production is the Shakespeare-heavy story line. “There’s tons of little side plots that tie in to Shakespeare,” he said. Tanner Schmoekel, 17, portrays Ron, a more modern take of Oberon, king of the fairies in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “I like it because it’s basically telling stories of a lot of different character types,” Schmoekel, a Newcastle resident, said of the play. “There are traits you want to follow and there are character traits that are not so good.” A character with some of those less-than-desirable traits is Paige, portrayed by Jamie Van Wagenen, 17, of Rocklin. “She’s the head mean girl,” Van Wagenen said. “I think it’s really fun. You can’t go around being mean to people, and I think it’s fun being somebody I’m not normally like.” Van Wagenen said “Shakespeare 101” is a fun show no matter how close you are to the Bard. “I didn’t know a whole bunch about Shakespeare, and the play presents Shakespeare in a fun way,” she said. __________ “Shakespeare 101: Passing the Bard” When: 4 p.m. Feb. 4, 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 and Feb. 12, and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 Where: State Theatre, 985 Lincoln Way, Auburn Cost: $5 in advance, $8 at the door Info: takenotetroupe.org