“I think it’s a benefit to students because they get an opportunity to interact with their peers that’s different from the routine of school,” said Rosanne Raneri, theatre department professor, discussing Shakespeare and Company’s sixth visit to Hudson Valley. “They make students feel immediately involved and valuable.”
“We honor who you are and where you come from and what you have to offer,” said Sean Kazarian, member of the Lenox, Massachusetts-based theatre troupe about student involvement during workshops, which ran five days last week.
Shakespeare and Company’s “Hamlet” drew a crowd of 90 students to the Maureen Stapleton theatre last Thursday. The production was the most widely attended event in the theatre since the talent show last November.
“There was a great deal of people here but even with that, it should have been packed,” said Cynthia Runyon, individual studies student.
Hudson Valley was one of 75 schools across the Northeast during this season’s tour that featured the Prince of Denmark from a piece written by William Shakespeare over four centuries ago.
“Everything in the play is translatable to modern times,” said Runyon.
Many students considered the 16th-century poet their reason for attendance in 2015. “His word choice is amazing and he somehow manages to go into aspects of other human beings that you don’t really see in other characters, and it’s really cool,” said Melody Krugar, secretary for the Theatre Club, about William Shakespeare’s work in “Hamlet.”
“One of the reasons why it’s so touching to so many different people is because you change so many different problems, stresses and defects that humans have. Hamlet has a problem with accepting things and letting things go,” said Conor Shahy, theatre arts student.
“Even for people who don’t get what they’re saying, they did a very good job in interpreting it to a more modern expression,” said Taylar Silvano, property manager for Theatre Club about the show’s modern twist to a work first published in 1603.
According to Silvano, Luke Reed, who played Hamlet, made a strong effort to contemporize his character. “He used very modern techniques of expression to express how Hamlet was feeling.”
After the Feb. 19 production, cast members posed statements such as “Ophelia is a victim” and “revenge is always justifiable” for audience discussion. “There have been many themes conveying how revenge is not the answer to life’s problems in places such as [Star Wars] Return of the Jedi, but Shakespeare does it best,” said Matt Peer, theatre arts student.
“All of the themes you see in Hamlet are timeless, and the workshops were really helpful,” Peer continued.
Throughout the week, the theatre troupe held workshops centered on topics from sword fighting to clowning.
Shakespeare & Company was founded in 1978 by Tina Packer, a British theatre manager who wished to bring Elizabethan theatre closer to American education. According to Shakespeare.org, the company reaches about 50,000 students annually.
The tour was part of “Shakespeare for a New Generation,” a nationwide initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest, reaching over 1,626 schools in 2013-14.
“It’s highly rewarding work. I think theatre has the ability to connect with people and to change people and to grow people into fuller human beings,” said Reed.