A Calvin theater class is staging Shakespeare all over the place.
Two cast members sang “Two Bright Elves” all the way from Gezon Auditorium to the Science Building last Tuesday night; when they entered the atrium, the ancient madrigal gave way to guitar playing which in turn yielded to Benedick’s rant from Much Ado About Nothing, a monologue which includes the following insight: “I will not be sworn but love may transform me to an oyster; but I’ll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me, he shall never make me such a fool.”
That scene had its rehearsal in that space as part of Shakespeare on Location, a progressive theatrical experience that stages scenes from The Bard in multiple campus locations: Macbeth in the Chapel Undercroft, Hamlet’s soliloquy in a philosophy classroom, Twelfth Night in a tunnel, Romeo and Juliet on the climbing wall.
The continuous play, which kicks off each performance at 7:30 p.m. on December 2, 3, 4 in Lab Theater, is the project of a class, “Acting and Directing Shakespeare,” taught by Calvin theater professor Stephanie Sandberg. Taking Shakespeare out of a conventional theater and staging his works in everyday locations allows the performers to breathe a fresh sensibility into the plays, Sandberg said. “It also helps us to see language in a new way and performance in a new way,” she said.
Students have divvied up directing chores on the various scenes, and they chose the locations themselves. “I just started walking around campus and looked at areas that were interesting to stage a scene in,” said junior Abby Beasley, who is directing the balcony scene in the Calvin Climbing Center. “Some of the things I thought of just weren’t feasible. I wanted to put people in elevators and in cramped corners of the library,” Beasley said.
Other students, those who aren't acting, have tackled lighting, sound and other theatrical amenities, such as the music which accompanies the actors from location to location.
Staging all over the place
Re-locating any play is a logistical challenge, Sandberg admitted: “It teaches you things about staging you wouldn’t learn working on a stage.” Junior Christina Binder agreed: “In the theater, you have a lot of control over lighting and scene design, but when you work in a found space, you just have to work with what you have.”
The students are enjoying the challenge, nevertheless. “I think it disorients the audience … . We’re taking the action offstage and really forcing them to engage with the scene.” said junior Sam McConnell. “The big challenge is that we have to make the audience really care about the characters.”
Also, the students said, there isn’t really much you can do to screw up Shakespeare: “These characters are timeless,” said sophomore Andrew Acevedo. “You could meet them on the street.”