Lone Wolves

DramaWatch: Students fall for Shakespeare

Portland Playhouse teams up with area students for the high-energy Fall Festival of Shakespeare; plus your other weekend theater options.

“It’s an English teacher’s remit to analyse language, but pick apart every word of Shakespeare and you’ve dissected the butterfly – pretty in parts but a nonsensical whole and certainly unable to fly.”

— Mark Powell, associate director of Salisbury Playhouse, in The Guardian

The works of William Shakespeare have been a part of Western education for centuries, and when used properly can have a transforming effect.

Consider how Shakespeare education has changed Nikki Weaver, for instance. Since being involved in the Fall Festival of Shakespeare, one of the main educational-outreach programs by Portland Playhouse, she has a different response to most Shakespeare. Give her a professional production that’s serious and exacting, that inspires audiences to sit in quiet concentration, the better to take in the import of the Bard’s immortal words — and she’ll want none of it!

A performance of “As You Like It” from the 2017 Fall Festival of Shakespeare. Photo courtesy of Portland Playhouse.

“It’s unbearable to be in those productions or a part of those audiences,” Weaver says, having experienced “the most exciting audience to be a part of” at the annual Fall Festival.

Her point, of course, isn’t that Shakespeare is boring, but quite the opposite: That if you approach Shakespeare’s plays not as dry, old words on a page but as exciting, emotionally charged and action-driven stories, everyone benefits, whether students or professionals, performers or audiences.

Such an approach is epitomized by the Fall Festival of Shakespeare, which Weaver oversees, and which takes over the Winningstad Theatre on Sunday. And if it can have such an effect on a highly regarded theater professional, one of Portland Playhouse’s co-founders, imagine what a difference it can make for the students.

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