Shakespeare’s contributions to modern literature are commemorated

Ariella Honig,’17 and Abigail Lehner ’18 perform Richard Curtis’ “Skinhead Hamlet.” (Anna Klug I Concordiensis)
Ariella Honig,’17 and Abigail Lehner ’18 perform Richard Curtis’ “Skinhead Hamlet.” (Anna Klug I Concordiensis)

May 3 marks the death-day of the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare. To commemorate his contributions to modern literature, the English and Theater Departments held an open mic event that showcased Shakespeare’s most famous works through student and faculty performances and tributes.

The event was held on Thursday, April 28 during common hour in Karp Hall’s performance classroom. The premise for the event was the brainchild of Patricia Wareh, assistant professor in the English Department, and Patricia Culbert, senior artist in residence. With a turnout upwards 50 people, the event, entitled “Shakespeare: Not Dead Yet!” was a hit among students, faculty, and staff.

“If you cannot understand my argument, and declare ‘It’s Greek to me’, you are quoting Shakespeare,” declared Culbert, quoting Bernard Levin, as she opened the floor for everyone to present their takes on Shakespeare. With the accompaniment of Ariella Honig, ‘17, the duo fired off the myriad of phrases that have been adopted into everyday English and can be traced back to the wordsmithing bard.

Jenna Salisbury, ‘18, held Yorick’s skull (in the form of a hacky sack) as she recited arguably the most famous soliloquy, Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” speech. Several sonnets were recited with gusto, especially one “Sonnet 18,” which was delivered in early modern, middle, and old English by associate professor of medieval literature and English Department Chair, Kara Doyle.

Abigail Lehner, ‘18 gave a fittingly snarky rendition of Phoebe from ‘As You Like It’, cleverly rejecting one advancing suitor. Sydney Paluch, ‘17, followed up with an Emilia monologue from ‘Othello’, effectively mixing early feminism with a modern touch.

Needless to say, all of the acts were all kinds of wonderful because, just like professional playwrights and Hollywood directors, presenters had the opportunity to implement one of the greatest virtues of Shakespearean works: their uncanny way of being interpreted in many different styles.

One such way was the ‘skinhead genre’ in which a scene from “Hamlet” was rewritten in modern Cockney. In the words of Culbert, the slightly produced “Skinhead Hamlet” written by Richard Curtis in “The Faber Book of Parodies”, was a means of readying students to study Shakespeare, but with a different perspective. “I think presenting Shakespeare’s work in a less delicate fashion makes students feel less stifled when it comes to studying such a world-renowned playwright,” commented Culbert on the topic of producing “Skinhead Hamlet.” The abridged script involved students of all years playing the main characters of Hamlet and throwing profanities to-and-fro whilst garnering healthy gales of laughter from the audience.

After the curtains had closed on the “Skinhead Hamlet” cast, Culbert and her colleague, David Girard, collaborated to act out a scene from Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors.” Culbert and Girard played Adriana and Dromio of Ephesus, respectively. The action echoed around Karp Hall, with Culbert throwing Girard around, and students and faculty alike were enthralled with the pair’s scene.

The collaboration between the English and Theater Departments brought forth the best virtues of Shakespeare’s contributions to the world of literature. As stated at the beginning of the event, Shakespeare is most certainly not dead yet. After all, Culbert announced at the end of the event that the Theater Department will soon be putting on a post-apocalyptic/Mad Max-esque rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” in the fall of 2016. Stay tuned for more Shakespeare, because he isn’t going anywhere any time soon.


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