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hannah juliet

Hannah Hale, a Bismarck student, plays the lead female role in Mineral Area College's production of "Romeo and Juliet" this week.

A local student is the lead actress in Mineral Area College’s production of "Romeo and Juliet," and she is only 14.

This may seem young, but it is the same age of Juliet in the script, written by William Shakespeare some 400 years ago about two young lovers who come from rival houses.

“Normally we do shows with younger people, but rarely any with this much of a line load,” said Chuck Gallaher, MAC's theater director. “I wanted someone who was as close to Juliet as possible.”

Since early January, Hannah Hale, of Bismarck, has practiced Monday through Friday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m.

This will be her first play. There were no signs in the school notifying students about the audition. According to Hale, “I found it online, and just thought it sounded like a fun thing to do.”

“I chose her because I just liked the way she read it,” said Gallaher. “She read it with a level of maturity I was just not expecting out of a 14 year old.”

Even before January, over Christmas break after the auditions, she worked hard at memorizing the script.

In January, Hale also participated in a school spelling bee – her second time – and this year she earned second place. This means she would compete in the conference spelling bee. Her play practice, however, would be at the same time as the spelling bee, so she had to choose which one took priority.

She chose to be Juliet.

“I could have either gone to practice for the spelling bee, or this, and it was an important practice, so I didn’t want to miss it,” she said.

“Hannah is a good student, and we’re proud of her,” English teacher Robyn Tiefenauer said. "She's a bright student, and I've always been impressed with her English skills.

"She is definitely a steady person, who doesn't let her heart get carried away. She's very logical."

In a scene where Juliet refuses to marry Paris, “Chuck told me I had to be more disobedient to my father,” Hale laughed as she said, on how Juliet challenges her personality in various ways.

"It's not like Hale is the type of person to see someone and instantly fall in love with them," Tiefenauer said.

The high school English teachers, Tiefenauer and Todd Varhalla, have both been very supportive of Hale in the production. Since they both teach Shakespeare, and Bismarck doesn’t have a theater department, they are excited about the prospect of a local Juliet.

“We have a seventh hour here, where have done a drama section,” Varhalla said, about an extracurricular program for interested students. 

"I've talked to the elementary principal about getting the kids to watch us do it," he said.

He hopes to cultivate an interest in acting.

"I'm by no means a drama teacher, but that doesn't mean I don't want to help or support kids who want to that."

They would like to see a drama group here, one day.

“We would love to have one." Varhalla said. "We have the stage for it."

He said it would be a great outlet for the students like Hale, who are interested in acting.

They also requested a bus to take about 20 students to see Hale perform.

"If it was during a school day, we could probably get more people to go," Tiefenauer joked.

“My friends all call me Juliet now,” she said. Many of them will watch her first performance.

The play takes place at 7 p.m. Feb. 14-16 each evening at Mineral Area College’s Fine Arts Theater. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the MAC Bookstore or at the door on the evening of performances. Cost is $7 general admission and $3 for all students and senior citizens.

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Matthew Morey is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3617, or at mmorey@dailyjournalonline.com.

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