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Students Bring Shakespeare's Magic to Life in a Classroom

ahtravis"The challenge of A Midsummer Night's Dream was to create three distinct yet mutually resonant worlds, ranging from the lovers to the fairies to the rude mechanicals," says director Dr. Travis Curtright of AMU's Literature Department and director of the humanities program at the university.Right, Dr. Curtright works with Sam Hughes (center) and Nick Ciavarra.

Judging by the smiles and applause of the audience in the classroom at the Henkels Academic Building, where the Shakespeare in Performance troupe recently completed 12 performances, the creation of those worlds, and the mischief overarching all three, seemed to resonate.

ahpeterBy now, many from Ave Maria are familiar with the rather unusual staging of Dr. Curtright's plays, set as they are in an ordinary classroom with scant, if any scenery, and interspersed with contemporary music of the performers' choosing. Still, this is the first year that numbers of people came from Naples to see the production, and it must have been a surprise to experience the level of performance that can attained in a setting so unremarkable, but one which does, in fact, have the benefit of engendering the kind of intimacy and audience/performer interaction that would have been common in Shakespeare's time. Left, Peter Atkinson

ahfairiesOne of the main issues Dr. Curtright knew he had to resolve from the moment he chose this particular Shakespearian comedy was how to make the members of the fairy kingdom seem like fairies without relying on sartorial clichés such as little wings. "I wanted fairies who would inspire awe, command the stage, and perform music that would comment on the action of the play. Without ornate sets or special lighting, I turned to movement, costuming, and makeup." Right, Victoria Velasquez, Katherine Levesque and Michaela Cheffers.

Dr. Curtright, who was on sabbatical this year, but who decided to do the play anyway, says he starts planning for the following year's production right after the completion of a spring run. "I have to spend time thinking how each actor can grow ... so that the students can really blossom."

ahemilyAt the moment, Dr. Curtright is mulling over returning to As You Like It, and thinks in the future the troupe might possibly do a modern production in fall, as well as the Shakespearian comedy in the spring. "Everything begins with your troupe members and thinking about what's involved to help them become a different person and actor after they've accomplished a specific role." Left, Emily Swope; below right, Conner O'Brien.

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 Above left, Paula Shute, Peter Atkinson and Jeremiah Foster.
Left, Briana Edwards. Below Andrew Olson and Mary Catherine Beller.
  Photos by Tyler Neil.

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