As Shakespeare with Noodles – a children’s theatre troupe in Hastings — takes to area parks this summer for its fifth season, Omaha filmmaker and artist David Weiss will have his camera rolling for a short documentary film currently in production.
Shakespeare with Noodles is the brainchild of Margaret Marsh, an adjunct professor of theatre at Hastings College and Central Community College. Each summer, Marsh and a band of school-age thespians offer up a different Shakespeare play. The plays are shortened to less than an hour and feature many visual comedy elements to hold the attention of audience members young and old. Nearly all of the hand props and Elizabethan costume pieces are made from swimming noodles.
This year, the group will perform “Henry IV Part I.” Performances are scheduled for Saturday, August 2 at 7 p.m. as part of Art in the Park at Libs Park (16th Street and Baltimore Avenue in Hastings); Saturday, August 9 at 2 p.m. during Kool-Aid Days in downtown Hastings; and Saturday, August 16 at 7 p.m. in McCool Junction. All performances are free, and the public is encouraged to attend.
Marsh is a veteran stage director who has collaborated with Hastings Community Theatre, Nebraska Arts Council, YWCA and the Sandy Dennis Foundation. Last year, she and her company, Mishmash Productions, won the Best Youth Arts Event award for “Enchanted Pumpkin Walk” at the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center. She is also a recipient of the Outstanding Director Award from the Nebraska Association of Community Theatres.
Weiss is a classically trained visual artist who transitioned into filmmaking by directing two short documentaries — “Haiti: Real Change” and “Backstage Confidential,” as well as developing a pilot for a reality television series. His documentary about Haiti was runner-up best Nebraska short film at the 2013 Omaha Film Festival. His commercial video production includes work for the NCAA, HBO, Kansas City Chiefs, Ace Hardware and Boys Town
What brought Weiss and Marsh together was the father of one of Marsh’s young performers. Molly Mittan, a senior at Red Cloud High School, is appearing in her fifth Shakespeare with Noodles production this summer. Her father, Chuck Mittan, is a producer and screenwriter.
“I love what Margaret and the kids do, and for several years I’ve thought it would make a great short documentary. I just wasn’t sure how to make it happen,” Mittan said. “Then David and I met while working on another film project I wrote, and he seemed like the right director for it. I pitched it to him, and here we are.”
Mittan currently has several projects in production and several more in development, including a horror feature with a small studio in the United Kingdom. He and Weiss are writing and producing the documentary together, with Weiss directing and doing his own cinematography. When it’s completed later this year, they will begin to submit it to film festivals.
Marsh said she likes to add something new every year, so this year’s production will feature dueling catapults during the battle scene. Audience members should probably be on the lookout for cream pies and flying cows.