We had a very exciting (and unusual) week of workshops. Thanks to Stonehill professor and AFTLS residency coordinator Helga Duncan, we were used in a wonderfully wide variety of classes; The History of Musical Mass, Cosmic Perspectives, and Ornithology are but a few examples.
I volunteered to do the Ornithology class. Since Shakespeare uses birds constantly in his writing, we had the whole canon at our disposal. We looked at ravens and owls, larks and nightingales, Cuckoos and cuckolds. Unfortunately, birds do not necessarily behave in the same way as in Europe. North American Cuckoos, for instance, don’t lay their eggs in other birds nests, so a cuckold would have had a very different name had the word originated in America. (Thanks to Assistant Professor Nicholas Block for this tidbit.)
Sam joined a physics class that had been studying planets and dinosaurs and had a very active class within a science lab – no mean feat whilst trying to avoid experiments that had been set up around the room. Patrick went to a Sacred Spaces class, a religious studies class where similarities between theatre and religion were explored.
When it came to the show, we put into the very capable hands of Jim Petty. We had great fun adapting the play to Stonehill’s Hemingway Theatre, which had the set of the current student production installed. This gave us lots of levels to work with and Chris took great delight in leaping all across the stage whilst playing Demetrius with me as Helena following. The audiences were fantastic and, as it was a small space, we got to enjoy great intimacy with the audience. The entire campus came together around the residency, which was not surprising, since Stonehill’s student body is only about 2400.
DePauw’s Ron Dye met us at the airport. An English professor (as well as a talented musician and composer), Ron was extremely welcoming and got us settled for our residency in Greencastle.
It was a quiet week with only one performance on the Tuesday to a very vocal and intelligent audience. Our workshops focused on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the students were unfazed by getting up and taking part practically.
DePauw, just like Notre Dame, has a relationship with the local prisons and Sam and I went to Indiana Women’s Prison (IWP) to run a workshop with the women there. IWP is the oldest women’s prison in the US and it was the extraordinary Kelsey Kauffman who invited us there. She is a bit of a celebrity within the prison system having been involved for many years, starting as a prison officer and now acting as the voluntary director of the Higher Education Program at IWP. Her enthusiasm and positivity was infectious.
At the weekend, we moved closer to Indianapolis to an area near Broad Ripple which was a lively, fun, electric town where some of us wowed audiences with Karaoke…but I won’t tell you who.
We embark on the final week of the first half of our double tour. Holland, Michigan’s Hope College is a land of tulips, windmills, black squirrels, and has been a grand finale to the fall tour. Sara Wielenga was our first port of call from the college, and she looked after us extremely well. Derek Emerson was responsible for inviting us and the Hope’s technical team did a fantastic job lighting the show with a very exciting cyclorama in the Knickerbocker Theatre.
Hope is a very friendly college on the shores of Lake Michigan. The week brought with it a wintery chill, but the people were extremely warm. We had two performances and the audiences were vocal and appreciative.
This tour has already been a great adventure. We’ve travelled the length of the country and visited places that we would never have visited as tourists. We’ve also met some extraordinary people along the way, from the professors, to the students, to the organizers. It’s been a privilege.
We’ll be back in 2016 for Shakespeare’s 400 Legacy Celebration and a ten-week tour. #SHX400
(Blog posts by Ffion Jolly)