Back row, from the left: Julian Kimball, Ben Salit, Chiara Amodeo, Isabel Epstein and Ben Gordon. Front row, from the left: Leah Dong, Liesha Sewani, Sadie Poulsen, Max Siskin and Donna Valenti (Faculty Coordinator) (Photo from the Port Washington School Ditrict)

Schreiber High School Celebrates Shakespeare Day

On April 19, 2024, Paul D. Schreiber High School held its 33rd Annual Shakespeare Day. Schreiber High School English teacher Donna Valenti, members of the English department, and a crew of dedicated students organized the event, where students and teachers presented songs, skits, and videos inspired by the works of Shakespeare.

A highlight of the day was when Schreiber senior Ben Salit arranged for Leonard Whiting, who played Romeo in the Franco Zeffirelli movie version of Romeo and Juliet, to participate with the audience, in a Q&A from England. When asked why students should continue to read/watch Romeo and Juliet, Whiting said: “Yes, you should read it to find your beauty in the world without hurting anyone,” which underscores the message in the opening song, adapted by and sung by Julian Kimball and Leah Dong called “Cautionary Tale.” Most, if not all, of Shakespeare’s plays are intended to be cautionary tales that help people move in the direction of finding beauty in the world, and avoiding tragedy.

Chiara Amodeo, with the help of Leah Dong, changed the lyrics of the song “I’m Just Ken” from the Barbie movie into a parody called, “I’m just Romeo,” in order to create a music video featuring Julian Kimball as Romeo and Max Siskin as Mercutio, among other student performers.

Sadie Poulsen created a slideshow of Shakespeare’s plays as Taylor Swift songs. Liesha Sewani created “I’m Passing the Phone To” video, retrofitting Shakespeare’s characters into a social media platform.

Isabel Epstein created a version of the Jeopardy! game to feature questions about Shakespeare and his plays that invited audience participation.

Ben Gordon and Max Siskin strung together a series of clips from Parks and Recreation to align its characters with Shakespeare’s characters.

Students of Ms Gokturk’s Honors Sophomore English classes updated the story of Macbeth in videos of their own making. Students from Ms. Valenti’s Senior AP English used ChatGPT to create new dialogues, such as between Shakespeare and Barbie in the “Bard vs Barbie Hot Dog Debate,” featuring Sarah Lucas and Milan John, and “Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey and William Shakespeare,” featuring Finn Meyer and Devin Spizz.

This creativity is in keeping with annual efforts to connect Shakespeare to modern times and continue to make the Bard relevant.

Of course, the day would not be complete or a success without the annual participation of the music department, support of the English department, and performances given by members of the staff, such as Mr. Lorge, Ms. Lauren Foster-Holzer, Carly Clancy, Amanda Johnson, Ms. Nelson, Ms. Grasso-Krebs, Ms. Vaserstein, Mr. Crivelli, Mr. Block, Mr. Corbo, Mr. Medico, Mr. Pinelli, Mr. Reynolds and the Schreiber Administrators who enthusiastically perform a scene each year.

An accompanying annual tradition is a High Tea hosted by Ms. Block, Ms. Rizzo and their FACS students, Ms. Schulman’s Theater Arts class delivers a Scene Contest, and the coordinators and Ms. Valenti host an annual sonnet and mask contest open to all Schreiber students.

Shakespeare Day organizers appreciate the technical support that they receive from Ms. Baglio and Ms. Friedman. Shakespeare Day is truly a collaborative and collective tradition that not only honors Shakespeare’s talents, but the talents of the students and staff.

Ms. Donna Valenti noted, “This longstanding tradition, which began 33 years ago, was established by John Broza, a former English teacher and Chair of the English Department at Schreiber. Interestingly, he also was my Shakespeare teacher when I was a student at Schreiber.”

For more information about the Port Washington Union Free School District, please visit the district’s website at follow our Instagram/Facebook page: @PortWashSchools.

—Submitted by the Port Washington
Union Free School District

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