All the World’s a Stage for the Annual Fall Play

Helena Hu and Annie Qiao

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Hundreds of eyes follow Puck’s (sophomore Eric Hao) striking entrance as he bursts, rolls and tumbles from the back of the house onto the stage, inciting peals of uproarious laughter from the audience.

From hilarious characters to tragically ironic displays of affection, the Portola High Theater Company dazzled audiences on Nov. 15-16 in its fall play, “The Heart of the Matter.”

The play, an original work developed by drama director Jeanne Jelnick, is a collection of four of William Shakespeare’s most iconic works about the intricacies and irrationalities of love. Theater troupes of students performed excerpts from “Twelfth Night,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Much Ado about Nothing.”

For some audience members, the antiquity of Shakespearean English may have seemed  confusing or difficult to understand. However, actors and actresses easily conveyed fundamental human experiences like humor, love and irony, proving that entertainment remains the same throughout the centuries.

“The thing that characters did, the ones that were reading script from Shakespeare, is that they cut lines,” Jelnick said. “There were some whole lines that were really impenetrable to a normal audience, and we did modernize a little bit of the language every now and then. I think the thing that makes it the most original was that it was a company effort.”

Historically-inspired costumes and an impressive three-dimensional house and stone wall created by the crew allowed actors to realistically interact with the set for the first time. The amount of time and effort that the cast and crew invested to achieve such professionalism is clearly evident throughout the production.

The crew, or “Mechanicals,” took a different approach to traditional theater by setting the scene for each story while the curtain was up and dressing each main character onstage.

“‘Heart of the Matter’ is really different from all other productions because I had to train my crew against what they were taught,” stage manager and junior Arisha Liao said. “For each scene change we are supposed to be invisible; the audience shouldn’t know we exist. The ‘Heart of the Matter’ values the transitions making it so we have to be known.”

The play featured a script adapted by the cast and crew, interludes of narration from “The Player” (sophomore Samir Behera) and a series of Renaissance-style English songs performed by “Entertainers.”

Overall, the production elements had a lasting impact on audience members, leaving them with reflections about the complexity of the human heart and its eternally unpredictable tendencies.

“Being on stage, entertaining an audience, and being able to see their reactions is by far the best part of theater for me,” freshman Nathan Kim, who played Romeo, said. “After so many hours of hard work, it feels so rewarding to draw the audience into a world that me and my friends helped to create.”