Senior Seminar: Shakespeare on Love Chicago Trip 2019
According to Hamlet the “play’s the thing.” He couldn’t be more firm in his conviction that the actual performance of a text has the power to clarify and even rectify. Taking this instruction to heart the Shakespeare on Love Senior Seminar headed to Chicago so that they might better study the transition of the Bard’s work from page to stage. The object of their study, Romeo and Juliet as performed by the world famous Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
For over a decade now the Shakespeare on Love Senior Seminar has been traveling to Chicago to consider how a modern repertory theatre mounts updated productions of Shakespeare’s plays. Previous trips have enjoyed performances of Much Ado About Nothing, Two Noble Kinsmen, Romeo and Juliet, Pericles, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and The Taming of the Shrew. This year’s production of Romeo and Juliet featured one of Shakespeare most celebrated plays updated to a hip-hip culture and located specifically in Chicago today. Director Barbara Gaines is clearly striving to answer the question “Is Shakespeare still relevant?” with a resounding “Yes!” Melissa LoCicero found the performance “enjoyable,” noting that there were “some really incredible performances in it.” She added, consistent with the Greenhills ethos, that it was “a nice addition to a wonderful time with friends.” Alex Cole, sharpening his critical skills, offered that he “liked the show as a whole and thought that Mercutio and Benvolio were acted very well,” but he felt that “the Nurse, and Lady Capulet could have been exploited better.” And Kaan Oral observed that “it was really cool to see the ideas we’ve discussed this semester come to life—especially with a twist as some characters were re-cast as the opposite gender. I appreciated being able to watch Shakespeare with a critical, informed eye rather than as an ordinary spectator.”
This final lesson was the capstone of a seminar which focused on the finer points of Shakespeare studies, namely, the relationship between Shakespeare’s theatrical spaces and the plays, the pesky authorship controversy, vexed questions of textual transmission, and creative analysis of production choices. Over the course of the semester the students worked on speaking the speech following the guidance of Peter Hall in his Advice to Players of Shakespeare and John Barton from his famous master class videos. And they analyzed and performed sonnets. Perhaps most important, they learned that one always only falls in love at first sight, because love, like the theater itself, is magic.
Traveling on the trip were Alex Cole, Will Ellsworth, Shaman Garcia, Alexa Kittendorf, Owen Klein, Juliet Krajcik, Johannes Kretzler, Melissa LoCicero, Kaan Oral, Abril Robinson, Jane Vaillant, Special thanks to Rebecca Randolph (also of the Greenhills English Department) for accompanying as a chaperone.
Written by Dr. Mark Randolph, English Department faculty member and organizer of this trip