English classes experience Shakespeare with an '80s twist

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By Mackenzie Condon

In the dead of winter, 90 students were able to experience A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The performance was held at the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, on Thursday. Kate Hennigan, David Wilson, and Bill McCarthy took students from their English classes that spanned all grades.

Director Tyler Dobrowsky took William Shakespeare’s classic play and fast-forwarded hundreds of years to the decade of big hair and shoulder pads–the 1980s. From the setting of a high school dance, to the cheerful songs such as Every Breath You Take by Synchronicity and I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston, the performance company aimed to appeal to its mainly high school audience.

Sophomore Maxwell Smith said, “I didn’t expect to like the production that much, because I have never been very interested in Shakespeare, however, I actually found myself watching the play and enjoying it because the costumes and the live music made it really interesting.”

Freshman Rose Herman agreed that the more modern take on the century-old production appealed to the high school audience. “I’ve never seen a Shakespeare play before,” she said. “I was expecting a really old and boring production that was hard to follow. I actually was pleasantly surprised as I understood it easily and really liked the addition of the upbeat songs and the use of modern theatric tricks like the smoke machine.”

English teacher Bill McCarthy has been taking students to the company’s productions off and on since 2001. He took students who chose to attend from his sophomore and junior English classes. “Every year the company does something different and keeps it interesting,” he said. “Last year they had Julius Caesar played by a woman and changed the setting to the current political season. This year they changed the setting of the play to the eighties which was especially unique.”

Sophomore Katie Morse attended the company’s production of Julius Caesar last year too. She said, “The play this year was easier to follow and more relevant to the young audience. It was easier to relate to as a teenager. I especially liked the setup of the production. The chair encircled the stage and the actors made it really engaging and interactive by using not only all of the stage but also the aisle ways and audience members. It was really a unique production.”

Freshman Chloe Hoff noted that the field trip offered more than just an experience to watch a Shakespeare production. “As a freshman it was a really great experience to be able to go on such a big trip and mix with all the grades. Learning outside of the classroom is not that common, and it gave me more than just an understanding of the play itself. I got to be in a fresh environment with the teachers, and the trip allowed me to press pause on the life of the same type of instruction for six hours a day and learn about something without a deadline or a test to stress about.”

Mr. McCarthy agreed that experiential learning is key to a holistic education. “There is something about the way that field trips turn education into a learning expedition that really makes for a valuable experience.”