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updated: 7/13/2011 2:11 PM

Making Shakespeare easy to understand

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  • From left, actors Johnny Schueneman, Doug Burrichter, Dan McQuaid, Robb Cleave, Nicolette Pollack, Kristen Duerdoth, Jessica McCluskey, Allison Grischow, Frank Warpeha rehearse for "Love's Labour's Lost," which will be performed outdoors at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 16 in Geneva's Island Park.

      From left, actors Johnny Schueneman, Doug Burrichter, Dan McQuaid, Robb Cleave, Nicolette Pollack, Kristen Duerdoth, Jessica McCluskey, Allison Grischow, Frank Warpeha rehearse for "Love's Labour's Lost," which will be performed outdoors at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 16 in Geneva's Island Park.
    Courtesy Midsummer Theatre Troupe

 
By Samantha Kiesel
skiesel@dailyherald.com

Toni Hix's dream is to meet British actor, director and writer Kenneth Branagh, who has directed and written five screenplays based off William Shakespeare plays.

As the artistic director for the past 13 years, Hix, of the Midsummer Theatre Troupe, draws inspiration of what Branagh has done with his films. Her main goal is to make Shakespeare easy to understand.

"Kenneth Branagh is my hero because he actually reinterprets Shakespeare so everyone can enjoy it," said Hix, who used to be a casting director in Hollywood. "I just love Shakespeare. I was a theater major at (Northern Illinois University) but I loved his plays before I went to college."

Hix gets to exhibit her direction and interpretation at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 16 at Island Park as the Midsummer Theatre Troupe, which presents productions of Shakespeare's comedies in the Fox Valley area, performs "Love's Labour's Lost."

The event is sponsored by the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission.

Vic Portincaso, chairman of the event, said around 600 people were in attendance last year. Admission is free, and those attending can bring their own food and should bring blankets and lawn chairs.

"My Shakespeare is very physical (instead of) just concentrating on the words," Hix of Batavia said. "I love movement, and I believe if your body shows your intent then the audience understands what's going on. It's how the actors behave and react to the person."

Hix likes to use her latest experiences to influence her on what production and set to choose. This year Hix vacationed in Hawaii, which helped her decide "Love's Labour's Lost" will be set in the Hawaiian Islands.

"It's my own interpretation of the play and we don't do it in the traditional dress all the time," Hix said. She added there are only so many Shakespeare plays to perform, so having the actors in different costumes and sets help make the play fresh.

The performance will be accompanied by food available for purchase from Stockholm's Pub and Grahams chocolates. There will also be preshow entertainment by the State Street Dance Studio and music from Shakespeare's time via a recorder and flute performance.

"(Midsummer Theatre Troupe) does such a wonderful job every year; their show is always fresh," Portincaso said. "What they put on is very family-friendly and easy to understand."

Hix lives for theater and Shakespeare. After moving to America from Holland when she was seven, Hix hardly knew any English. She remembers watching "Romeo and Juliet" on television and admiring its beauty despite not understanding it. Years later, after learning English, she saw a production of the same play.

"I remember watching this movie on television. I never saw it but somehow I knew what was going to happen," Hix said. "I knew (Romeo) was going to die and I couldn't believe that I remembered it. That is when I really started loving Shakespeare."

Hix said surprises are in store throughout her show to make sure the families -- and kids -- are still engaged in what is happening onstage.

Ultimately, though, she wishes Branagh could see the work she has done.

"I would do anything to meet (Branagh)," Hix said. "I would give him a copy of my shows and just say, 'Look at what you've done. See you're an inspiration.'"

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