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Teens take note of Shakespeare

By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Shakespeare, for some, can be intimidating. But for a group of students in Take Note Troupe, it has given them a passion for performing. Thirty-two high school-aged students, almost one-third of whom reside in Rocklin, make up the service and theatre troupe, performing at schools, in the communities and teaching improv workshops throughout the area, conveying their motto, “men when they teach, learn.” The all-volunteer, community service-based theater group began six years ago when LaRee Florence’s oldest daughter wanted to learn about Shakespeare. It began with one performance in now artistic director Florence’s backyard that grew into an award-winning venture. “They wanted more people to play acting with them,” said Producer Jean Hilton of Rocklin. Now the troupe has grown to include an educational fall play and a Shakespeare performance each year amid skills workshops. The troupe even has national awards under its belt. Most recently, they competed in the 31st annual High School Shakespearean competition in Utah with more than 2,500 students from 95 high schools in the U.S. The troupe took away three awards. But it’s not so much about the awards they win, as the people they help. “Our main goal is service,” said 15-year-old Matthew Hodgson of Rocklin. Hodgson joined TNT when he was 14 and was hooked after taking a Shakespeare course and attending countless TNT performances. With improv workshops, Hodgson said he tries to cultivate positive energy, getting kids to open up and let go when they perform. One of the games they teach the students attending workshops is “freeze” where two students act out a scene until they hear the word “freeze.” They stop and two new actors take over where the others left off. “There’s a lot of games that teach kids a lot better than just talking,” Hodgson said. His mother, Sheri Hodgson, TNT’s secretary, said that the team aspect is something special within the group. “As a parent, I love that there is no star,” she said. “It’s always more of a team effort.” Sheri added that those values spill over into everyday life – they learn to help each other and have each other’s backs. And Matthew agreed. “If you mess up, you have a bunch of people who can help you climb out of the situation,” he said of performing. The troupe is student-run with student written, edited and cleaned-up plays to attract family-friendly audiences. “The youth run the whole backstage,” Sheri said. Joseph Hilton, 19, was attracted TNT with just one introduction. “I went to one of their shows,” he said. That was three years ago and he nabbed the lead in his first play with TNT. But now he’s preparing for his final show: “Shakespeare 101 or Passing the Bard,” set in a high school literature class. What kept Joseph interested in TNT throughout the years, was giving back to his community. “The service aspect. Giving a performance to the kids,” he said. Each performance is also performed at local school assemblies during the week of the public shows. TNT also puts on annual Shakespeare plays in the park presentations in Roseville’s Royer Park in addition to holding classes for junior high-aged youth called Dramatic Moments. What: “Shakespeare 101 or Passing the Bard” performance by Take Note Troupe When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday Where: NCDC Studio Theater, 920 Reserve Drive, Ste. 110 in Roseville Tickets: $5 in advance, $8 at the door Info: 652-8888, 788-7488 or www.tntdrama.org