Written by Sue Zelie
Founding Member of Homeschool Theatre Guild & President of the Board of Directors
Back in 1994, homeschool mom and dear friend, Lissa Marcucci, who read voraciously about what was going on in different areas of the homeschooling movement, learned about two moms who successfully put on a Shakespeare play, using Shakespeare’s language, with young homeschooled students.
She looked right at me and said, “We could do that, Sue.” I didn’t feel quite so sure, but together we tackled it. Lissa, a crackerjack seamstress, was in charge of costuming, and I, the English major and Shakespeare aficionado, had great fun choosing a script for Romeo and Juliet and getting our cast of characters into shape, about a dozen kids from 6 to 12 years of age.
At the end of the experience, I knew that I’d never tackle another Shakespearian tragedy with a young cast. One very young lord delivered the lines about the sad death of his wife with as much emotion as if he was telling the audience he’d just made a peanut butter sandwich. And Juliet, who was supposed to be lying dead on her bier in the tomb, was mouthing the words of every other cast member from her lifeless mouth. The audience had all they could do not to suppress their laughter, and they didn’t succeed. Which I understand. But, I vowed not to have another audience laugh at my tragedies.
On the positive side, the kids had done a tremendous job with memorization and delivery. They got all kinds of praise from the audience. And for me, the greatest bonus, aside from the obvious growth in poise and confidence, and the deepening peer friendships which came out of the experience, was the students’ understanding of and love for the writing of the greatest poet/playwright in the English language. I was hooked.
I remained hooked for the next 16 years when I felt that I’d directed the accessible comedies more than enough times and the moment had come for new vision to enliven the group. Along the way, and abetted by the intrepid leadership of Pam Trefethen, we had incorporated as a non-profit organization with the state of New Hampshire, which gave us greater freedom to use venues such as the wonderful Rochester Opera House. Thus we officially became the Homeschool Theatre Guild with our mission of glorifying God by presenting theater which inspires and delights and educates.
I passed the directorial baton on to the talented Christopher Ouellette in 2012, who did a masterful job of presenting The Princess and the Goblin.
In 2013, Margaret Murray, veteran homeschool mom and one-time actor herself, came on-board as director and has done a great job of directing the recent HTG productions, earning much acclaim and praise from the audiences.