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Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" isn't the most well-known play. Its tone is ambiguous, shifting from dark, psychological drama to straightforward comedy. In fact, there isn't a documented performance of the play in Shakespeare's lifetime.

That didn't deter Hillcrest High's theater director Josh Long from producing it.

He's no stranger to rising to the occasion. After all, his production of "Aida" won numerous Best Musical awards, he has helped several students receive performing-arts scholarships and he's done it all in just a six-year tenure.

"Troilus and Cressida" was no exception to his track record.

Instead of adding to four centuries of bewildered audiences, it turned into the school's most profitable play ever produced.

"Mr. Long really knows what he's doing when he's teaching Shakespeare," said junior McKayla Connor, who played Cressida. "His process is amazing, and he helps us understand the characters on a different level."

Its success was in its scale. The play deals with epic battles, so the production was nothing short of titanic.

"There was such a wide range of performers, from football and basketball players to singers and dancers," McKayla said. "It created a lot of excitement through the entire school."

Nearly 100 students participated in the production, a high percentage for a school of just more than 1,600.

One of the performers, senior Chase Parsons, had never been in a play in his life, let alone one as complex as this endeavor. Previously a linemen for the football team, Chase left the team in his final year to focus on his grades. He was the perfect fit for a soul-searching Achilles, and he only needed Long, like Ulysses in the play, to spur him into action.

And, like Achilles, Chase felt he was changed by the experience.

"It made me realize anyone is capable of anything," Chase said. "I never thought I would be able to do it. Everyone was so different on the set, but we all had the same goal."

While the play has drawn its final curtain, the show will go on for Long and the Shakespeare team. McKayla will be returning to keep the trophy at Hillcrest next October. One of the players, junior Nate Morley, will be there as well. Nate, who played Troilus, believes the team's success is based on Long's leadership and intense rehearsals. No stranger to sports as well, Nate feels the amount of effort required in theater outmatches his experiences in athletics.

"Mr. Long is an absolute genius," he said. "He knows Shakespeare, he knows acting, and he knows how to get the best out of all of us."

Twitter: @sltribMid —

At a glance

The theme for Hillcrest's theater department is "Change a Life."

Hillcrest's production of "Aida" won Best Musical in Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theater's High School Theater Awards.

No one is left out at Hillcrest. Josh Long believes in giving every student who auditions a role in the production.

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