Last Friday and Saturday, Tess Burgler ’09 presented her Senior I.S. production, entitled Original Shakespeare Theatre.
The idea was to use original practice methods to make a performance as close as possible to how Shakespeare would have done it, while still being interesting and enjoyable to both Shakespeare fans and non-fans. As a casual fan of the bard, I found the performance quite enjoyable, but I’m not sure whether or not it appealed to non-Shakespeare fans as well as it could have.
Rather than try and pull together an entire play in four weeks, Burgler decided to present three scenes from some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays ‚Ä” Hamlet, Twelfth Night and Macbeth.
Before each performance, an actor playing a smaller role came forward to give a brief synopsis of the beginning of the play, accompanied by Scott Cambell ’09 on the lute. These little introductions were a wonderful way to draw the audience quickly into each new world, and the music was incredibly helpful for creating the atmosphere.
The outdoor space, the courtyard of Scheide Music Center, and the lavish costumes also added to the feeling of going back in time. The actual scenes were well acted for the most part, although several speeches seemed to go by almost too fast to understand. The space, while beautiful, was also not the most acoustically sound, which made a handful of lines a little hard to understand. But these were relatively small problems, and didn’t really interfere with my enjoyment of the show. Several actors really stood out, delivering performances which felt both genuine and very Shakespearean.
Megan Liber ’09, Owen Reynolds ’11 and Emeritus Professor of German Richard Figge all gave memorable performances, but the strongest scene, for me, was between Burgler and Nick Weiss ’09 as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Weiss’s soliloquy was poised, believable and somehow managed to sidestep the melodrama which actors are often tempted to put in a scene of such intensity.
While Original Shakespeare Theatre was a good Shakespeare production, however, I can’t help but feel it didn’t do much to counter the biases which some people bring about Shakespeare. The choices which made the atmosphere of the performance so charming might also have served to reinforce those who think of Shakespeare as stuffy and out-of-date. I also question whether two comedies and a tragedy might have been a better choice of selections to that end – they do tend to be a bit more accessible. If people did come to this show with strong biases, however, I hope the solid performance delivered by the cast were enough to make them think again.