Shakespearience Provides Innovative Ways of Studying Shakespeare

On October 31, the English Department, in conjunction with the Washington Program, hosted the first “Shakespearience,” a day devoted to learning, performing, and reinterpreting the works of Shakespeare.
English classes performed and presented different works of Shakespeare in a variety of formats, including Julius Caesar monologues by freshmen, the sophomore class’ Macbeth production, and seniors’ Literary Analysis presentations on Hamlet. English classes worked throughout the fall to read, analyze, and interpret their assigned Shakespeare works in preparation for the performances.

After weeks of rehearsing and reciting passages from Julius Caesar for their individual freshman English classes, seven finalists were chosen to perform their monologues in front of peers and teachers during the Shakespearience. The two runners-up were Annie Caine ’22 and Piers Luscombe ’22, and the overall winner was Charles Zheng ’22 for his dramatic rendering of Casca.

English Department Chair Molly Pugh says, “Four senior classes competed in a "pitch" contest, vying to see which of their proposals for a contemporary production of Hamlet would be chosen by their audience. Another three senior classes presented original scenes drawing from characters and themes across Shakespeare's plays, while yet another four classes performed monologues and dialogues and presented projects on Hamlet.”

The 2018 Scholar in Residence, Dr. James Loehlin, delivered the keynote address and performance from Henry V. Dr. Loehlin is the Shakespeare at Winedale Regents Professor of English and director of the Shakespeare at Winedale program at the University of Texas at Austin. According to the university’s website, “Loehlin works with the evolving meaning of plays in performance, both from a scholarly and practical perspective. He has published books on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV, and Henry V, as well as Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. He has directed, acted in, or supervised productions of 25 of Shakespeare's plays, as well as all four of Chekhov's major plays.”

Pugh says, “The Shakespearience required an immense amount of organization, planning and passion from all English teachers. We wanted a celebratory culmination of our community's Shakespeare study, one that involved many student voices and talents. We also wanted to demonstrate the rigorous, scholarly, and enjoyable nature of experiential education when it involves drama, in particular, Shakespeare. By encouraging engagement and performance, the process also offered students opportunities to think critically about themselves, their peers, and the relevance of Shakespeare to us all.”

View the keynote address and performance of Macbeth here

View photos of all performances and presentations here