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Yearlong arts collaboration focuses on Shakespeare

By : Rachel Coker

Departments throughout the arts and humanities will join forces this year to present a Shakespeare mini-festival. Events will include performances as well as classes and even an art exhibit.

BU Arts 2005-06 Schedule

“We have these disparate programs in the arts working together on a central theme,” said Floyd Herzog, director of the Anderson Center. The festival isn’t as formal as some previous ones, though it will include many unusual opportunities for the campus community as well as the general public to deepen their understanding of the Bard:

• A multi-media exhibition including costumes, videos, photographs, drawings and prints will open Oct. 11 at the Art Museum. The show will focus on how art has helped to shape people’s visual perception of Shakespeare’s characters and scenes through the centuries.
• Opera Verdi Europa will perform Verdi’s opera Macbeth on Oct. 18 at the Anderson Center.
Verdi scholar Mary Jane Phillips-Matz will present a pre-performance lecture.
• The Comedy of Asses, an irreverent show for mature audiences, will be presented by the Department of Theatre on Oct. 20-23 and 26-30 at the Gruber Theater (Studio B). Plautus, author of the comedy, was a source of inspiration for Shakespeare.
• The Russian National Orchestra will open an All-Tchaikovsky Gala Based on Shakespeare with the incidental music from Hamlet while actors carry out the storyline in front of the orchestra.

The show will be performed March 3 at the Anderson Center.

• Faculty composer Paul Goldstaub will present an afternoon of new music inspired by the Bard on April 23 in the Casadesus Recital Hall.
• The Department of Theatre will present A Macbeth, adapted by Charles Marowitz from Shakespeare’s play and directed by Anne Brady, on April 28-29 and May 5-7 at the Watters Theater.
• Many classes within the theatre and English departments are focusing on Shakespeare and students will be encouraged to take advantage of the art exhibit and performances.

Professor Theodore Swetz, who has been a Shakespearean actor for more than 30 years, will direct The Comedy of Asses. “The breadth of Shakespeare’s talent is what separates him from other playwrights,” Swetz said, noting the same person who wrote brilliant comedies also gave us Hamlet, arguably the greatest tragedy ever written.

“It is simply part of the fabric of our society,” he said. People are familiar with the content of Shakespeare’s plays even if they’ve never watched one. “It speaks to everybody in the house,” Swetz said. “When the collective laugh hits, we’re all one people.”

Herzog said few companies dare to stage Verdi’s Macbeth, in part because the role of Lady Macbeth is extraordinarily demanding, so he couldn’t resist an opportunity to bring the production to the Anderson Center. “Macbeth is one of the great examples of lyric theater ever created,” he said. And this particular production has a unique design that makes use of a revolving stage.

Andrew Walkling, dean’s lecturer in English, theater and art history, is teaching Shakespeare and Shakespearean Adaptation in support of the Shakespeare festival. “I find Shakespeare fascinating, interesting and fun. He has a wonderful gift for language and a wonderful gift for theater,” said Walkling, who believes the Bard’s level of achievement and influence are unmatched.

He’s even finding ways to tie in material such as Forbidden Planet, a science fiction film starring Leslie Nielsen. As Walkling’s students learned last week, much of the movie is inspired by The Tempest.

Composer Goldstaub has himself found inspiration in The Tempest, though his work I Am Prospero, which requires a large orchestra, won’t be part of the April event.

“I’ve always enjoyed Shakespeare and been fascinated by how every generation in our Western world has been able to find things in Shakespeare that relate to their own time,” Goldstaub said. “How does someone write something that is of a time and yet timeless?”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08