Shakespeare’s 450th birthday bash comes to Fairmont’s Theater program

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Photo: Illustration by Sam Barton

His name is Will and he has entertained people around the globe with his magnificent plays for the past four centuries. Now that’s staying power.

This year, Fairmont’s theater program is offering a “Shakes Yeare” by putting on three different Shakespeare-related plays. The fall play is a comedy called The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged,  and the winter play is the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet. Lastly, the spring Children’s Play is The Taming of the Shoe, a remade version of Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew.

“I’ve always been intrigued by Shakespeare, his plays, and his creative use of language,” said Fairmont theater teacher Darren McGarvey. “I’ve been itching to do another of his plays.”

McGarvey, who attended the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., two years ago, noticed that several other arts organizations in the Miami Valley were doing Shakespeare plays this year to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the playwright’s birth.

“I didn’t think I’d focus all my attention on him this year, but since others were, I figured it was a great opportunity,” McGarvey said, adding that he’s still in the early stages of planning.

“I plan to pay homage to what Shakespeare intended, but to also take advantage of all the opportunities the scripts offer. I’ll plan to do a bit of updating to reach today’s audiences and our students,” he said.

McGarvey and his cast and crew will be starting the year’s performances on a light note with the fall play The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged on Oct. 23, 25 and 26. Recognizing that Shakespeare can be a bit intimidating, McGarvey hopes humor and audience participation will draw people in.

“The fall play was written for three people, but I have added more parts,” he said. “There are a couple of opportunities where the audience members could act as another character. Also, a lot of laughter, applause and humor will keep the play going as well.”

While the fall play will offer a mixture of dialogue – some in Shakespeare’s exact words and some modern language, winter play audience members will hear Shakespeare’s original words. “Romeo and Juliet will be totally in Shakespearean language,” McGarvey said.

Taylor Shehata, a junior who has been active in the theater program at Fairmont, said she thinks students will enjoy watching a performance of the tragic love story that they likely read in their freshman English classes.

“There is a difference between watching it and reading it,” she said. “Reading it, you are bombarded with all this information at once. Watching it, you see the director’s interpretation of it.”

As for the Children’s Play in the spring, McGarvey recognizes that the target audience, young elementary students, might find Shakespearean dialogue difficult to follow, so The Taming of the Shoe will be in modern language

The Taming of the Shoe is light fare and fun, but will be a great way to introduce younger audiences to the Bard,” said McGarvey.

Tim Brooks, a senior in the theater program, has already tried out for the fall play. “I think it is going to be a new challenge because Shakespeare is a new beast on its own,” Brooks said.There is a whole new language to learn.”

Shehata, who also tried out, agrees that memorizing Shakespeare will be challenging. “If I do end up getting in, it’s going to take a lot more than just skimming over my lines at every practice and then doing the same at night,” she said. “I am kind of excited for it; it’s a challenge.”

Shehata also said she is looking forward to the Shakespeare experience in general. “Shakespeare is a big part of English and culture, most literature and movies derive from Shakespeare influence,” she said. “I’m really excited because I myself enjoy Shakespeare a lot.”

The winter play will be staged on Jan. 29-31, 2015, and the Children’s Play will take place April 24-25, 2015. For more information about the plays and tryouts, see McGarvey in Room 130.