On Friday I was lucky enough to witness several students (seniors in college) do an end-of-the-year performance called The Shakespeare Projects. Each student did a 10 minute solo piece. They chose a character and used lines spoken by that character to tell a story. There were sets, costumes, and props were all present. I saw some very creative things ranging from a man whose life and family have been altered by the war in Iraq with lines from Titus to Romeo living his story and the other characters appear as he draws them.
This isn’t the usual way that Shakespeare is performed… but it’s not a bad one. To clarify, the students were not playing the exact character from the play. They were using some of a character’s lines to create their own original journey and agenda. One was a mad scientist far in the future using Prospero’s lines. Miranda was a robot and Ariel was shapes of light on the ceiling.
I know that not everyone likes this idea. Some say that Shakespeare’s words must remain in their own context! Says who?
What I saw here were student actors connecting to the text and meaning what they said. I think everyone in the audience knew what was going on all the time. That’s more than I could say for some professional productions I’ve attended.
Seeing this got me thinking if there might be a place for these sort of performances to take place outside an educational environment. It’s not horribly uncommon to have a night a scenes as a fundraiser or showcase. Why not a little something different? Various actors creating a story with lines from a character in Shakespeare and sets and props to go with it. It could be fun to see. What say you?