Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Transforming Power of Shakespeare

Last night's panel discussion at The Players was both edifying and inspiring. The four speakers on our panel immediately called themselves "The Shakespeare Club," and their conversation affirmed the power of language to stir the heart and even influence the course of a life. Here are a few quotable quotes from their discussion, moderated by Sr. Danielle Dwyer, Elements Artist Director: “It’s absolutely astounding to me that these words have lasted so long, and there’s no end in sight. Is there a day in the past 400 years that they haven’t been spoken? When Shakespeare’s words come to life, everybody understands them. There’s no barrier, there’s nothing formal or foreign – there is just human interaction, and human need.” -Louis Colaianni (Author of How to Speak Shakespeare, Voice Teacher, Coach) “There is a lot of anxiety about the state of theatre, and if the humanities are in jeopardy, and whether Shakespeare is at war with popular culture. But to me, Shakespeare is the ultimate in pop culture. He’s the source and the font of all that we write and think, all the narratives that we enjoy – from procedurals to family dramas.” –Rob Weinert-Kendt (Senior Editor, American Theatre) “Because of Shakespeare’s understanding of human nature, he’s always relevant. The transformations that modern theatre companies make in order for his work to be accessible don’t change the knowledge of human nature that’s in the material.” –Sr. Danielle Dwyer (Artistic Director, Elements Theatre Company) “In Shakespeare’s work, there is a threshold of pretend, which is hoping for more than what we have now, and real life, which is what we have now – and that is the transforming power of the arts. As the saying goes, “fake it until you make it” – but fake it in the best way, for all the right reasons, for a world that we haven’t realized yet. What’s amazing about Shakespeare is that he fakes it for a world that can be amazing if we allow it to be – a world that can be beautiful, reconciling, forgiving, and much more grand and full – but he also shows us the grandeur of the world that we have right now.” –George Drance, SJ (Artist-in-Residence, Fordham University) “I taught a kid who had been in America for two years, and desperately wanted to learn English. At the time, I assigned him the role of Menenius in Coriolanus. I met him at a 10th reunion of that graduating class, and he told me that he had become a lawyer because, he said, 'I got the confidence to speak in front of people because of that scene, and those words.' That’s the transformative power of Shakespeare." -Josh Cabat (English Department Chair, Roslyn Public Schools, Long Island)    

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Workshop Yesterday the actors spent the day working with the students at Notre Dame School. Rachel and Brad, our workshop leaders, and the other actors worked with more than 80 tenth grade girls over the course of four hours. _G0A3767Did you know that Shakespeare coined the terms "all of a sudden", "as dead as a doornail", "foul play", "good riddance" and countless others? Or that Shakespeare's characters were the first to "vanish into thin air" or go on a "wild goose chase"? Well you would, if you came to a workshop! The actors and students had a great time, beating out iambic pentameter, exploring the different types of vowel sounds and finding the "spine" of their sonnets. _G0A3670Tomorrow we'll have a new video to post on the Word Made Flesh site, a sonnet recorded by the Notre Dame drama club!  

From the Road – Day 4

Notes after rehearsal
Notes after rehearsal
We are now on day 4 of our annual tour of New York City, and one of the most rewarding aspects of a time like this is meeting like-minded people who enrich our experience, open up new vistas into what is possible, and graciously put us in touch with others who share a common vision - leaving us with a happy sense that the world is just a bit smaller than we thought. When one first arrives in the Big Apple, it can take some time to acclimate to the sheer pace, the over-stimulating sights and sounds, and the general sense of "largeness" that comes from being in the world's most highly-powered city. As one woman who runs an arts network observed yesterday, "New York is the Olympics - it will bring out the worst in you, but it can also bring out the best."
 
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Which is why it is such a pleasure to make connections with others in the theatre world who share our love for Shakespeare and belief in the transforming power of his work. One of the panelists for this Friday, Rob Weinert-Kendt, is senior editor of American Theatre magazine. After a fascinating conversation in which we discussed the impact of Shakespeare's language, he shared with us a piece that he wrote for America magazine about "the spirituality of theater," where he observed that, "Theater is an arena where narrative is incarnated. When a story is made flesh before us on stage, by actual people with whom we share breathing space, it is no longer just information, mere plot points. It is metaphor with the sweat and spit of life in it, and that makes all the difference." (Read the entire piece here: http://americamagazine.org/issue/775/theater/stage-presence)