The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare-in-the-Schools tour presented at the Snow College Convocation Arts and Lecture Series on Thursday, April 7. The team of seven performers taught students about improvisation, stage combat, and Shakespeare’s text.
To begin, Kelly Rogers and Marco Vega gave a lesson on developing character through improvisation. Improvisation is essentially performing without a script. Rogers and Vega humorously stated that “we haven’t talked about this at all.” The goal of performers in improvisation is to take the idea given to them by the other person and serve it back. They involved audience members to help create scenes based on unexpected patterns of speech and movement. Vega ended by stating that performing art and teaching others ways to perform helps actors understand empathy. He believes that this is because through performing, actors try to understand how others feel through their experiences.
Second, Kyle Curry and Domonique Champion demonstrated how to properly execute stage combat. After demonstrating a fight scene from Hamlet, Curry stated that “Unlike improv, we rehearsed that a lot.” In order to do stage combat correctly, all people involved must focus on safety and how the move appears to the audience. Curry taught that the victim (or the person pretending to be harmed) of the fight must always be in control. Features like eye contact, specific targets, distance, and movements are ways that the performers keep both themselves and their partner safe during any stage combat scene.
Allie Babich and Natalie Blackman then took the stage to discuss the language involved in Shakespeare’s text. They explained that Shakespeare lived in an oral-based society without media to entertain them. Babich stated that Elizabethan play patrons would often state that they went to “hear a play rather than see a play.” According to Babich, our generation has a vocabulary on average between five thousand to ten thousand words. Shakespeare’s Canon comprises a dictionary of over twenty-five thousand words. Shakespeare would often make up words to audibly describe the atmosphere, emotion, and context of the scene. According to Blackman, hip-hop music lyrics are the closest thing that scholars can compare to Shakespeare’s manner of speech. Babich and Blackman ended by comparing folk lyrics to dialogue from Shakespeare that were both comparing the need to feel loved. Blackman stated, “There must be something terribly human about that if it’s been written about for hundreds of years.”