(WITH VIDEO) – This year’s Shakespeare Festival at Murray State showed how the Bard’s work is as relevant to students’ lives now as it was four centuries ago.
William “Rusty” Jones, director of Murray Shakespeare Festival, said both “Hamlet” and “Much Ado about Nothing” communicate the drama of decision making and gossip that are relatable to the current generation.
The performances began Tuesday with a recreation of “Much Ado about Nothing” by a professional troop from the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia. The comedy about eavesdropping has new meaning in the age of social media.
“You hear one thing, believe it’s true and act on it,” Jones said. “In the Facebook (and) Twitter culture today, you post one thing on Facebook and that’s truth and everyone acts on it.”
Jones explained that in “Much Ado about Nothing,” similar actions happen when characters gossip or have believed something false and the rumors spread quickly. Jones said if something is not true, it doesn’t matter because the “ball is rolling.”
Jones said he thinks students have left “Much Ado about Nothing” with a belief that Shakespeare is more fun and accessible than they imagined.
The similarity between Shakespeare and current generation takes a heavier turn in the second performance of the festival.
“Hamlet” also was slated to be performed by the professional troop. Jones cited notable similarities from the play to our society’s state.
Jones said “Hamlet” is a college student who decides to leave school to deal with family troubles and princely responsibilities after his father passes away.
“The drama of having to take a life decision is something students can understand,” Jones said.
Films have often attempted to update Shakespearean works. Jones cited the movie “She’s the Man” starring Amanda Bynes as an adaptation of “Twelfth Night.”
Some of the characters from that movie have the same names as characters from Shakespeare’s work. Another example Jones mentioned was the movie “The Lion King,” which is an adaptation of “Hamlet.”
Students’ experiences with the Shakespeare Festival began with other modern entertainment including a flash mob and acting workshops.
As a new addition to the festival this year, an Austin Peay State University professor had been scheduled to discuss “Hamlet on Film.” The event was canceled because of the weather.
One goal for this year’s festival hasn’t changed from preceding years.
“Bring a professional troop from Virginia to our campus to (offer) affordable professional
Shakespearean theater to our region,” Jones said. “And to give a resource for educators of all levels that will help improve their student’s appreciation of these foundational cultural plays.”
The end of the festival doesn’t mean the end of Shakespeare on campus. Jones suggested that students attend the theater department’s adaptation of “The Tempest,” a mature comedy with magic elements. It will run from April 9-12.
“The point is, they shouldn’t be afraid of Shakespeare,” Jones said. “They should experience ‘The Tempest’ done by our theater department. I think they will get something out of it.”
Story by Tiffany Whitfill, Staff writer