‘Coriolanus’ events bring learning opportunities for students

by Maria Hidalgo | 11/13/18 2:00am

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William Shakespeare's military drama "Coriolanus" will be playing at the Hopkins Center later this month. 

Source: Photo courtesy of David Hou

This coming interim period, the play “Coriolanus” will be performed in the Hopkins Center for the Arts by the acclaimed Stratford Theatre Company, based in Stratford, Ontario. Students from the film, theatrer and English departments will collaborate with the Hopkins Center in order to bring this event to campus and integrate the arts more deeply with student life at the College. Throughout the month of November, a myriad of events related with “Coriolanus” will take place, which will often be directed and conducted by the renowned actors from the company. With this opportunity, students and members of the greater Hanover community will be able to enjoy activities and performances that will stand out from the other events that the Hopkins Center has sponsored in the past due to high cast engagement.

According to Hopkins Center director Mary Lou Aleskie, “Coriolanus” and the events planned around it were made possible through alum connections.

“[The events related to “Coriolanus”] started with a casual conversation with an alum,” Aleskie said.“He mentioned [that] this incredible production was happening at Stratford and how [the Stratford Theatre Company] was thinking more and more about how to organize talks and think about education around the festival and the ideas behind Shakespeare’s plays.”

Aleskie added that the alumnus connection, Daniel Bernstein ’87, eventually became the lead sponsor.

Engagement coordinator for the Hopkins Center Samantha Lazar said that the set is one of the most attractive features of the play that will be brought here. The production uses high technology and extraordinary framing in order for the play to have a cinematic feeling, Lazar said. The assistant director for “Coriolanus,” Mikaela Davies, added that much of the technology used for the production was new.

“[Working on “Corioloanus”] was a [true] learning experience,” Davies said. According to Davies, “[the use] of the different projections and infrared, all of the things that [make] the piece look so cinematic,” was a fascinating challenge.

Lazar added that since the production’s technology is an important and impressive part of “Coriolanus,” one of the events surrounding it will be centered around the high-tech of the production.

“Many people don’t actually realize this is an actual theatre performance, because when they see pictures it looks just like a movie, so people have been thinking it is one,” Lazar said. “Therefore, we have a talk about what goes into that.”

According to Aleskie, “Coriolanus” and its series of complementary events, such as the program discussing its set, is truly unique due to how experimental it will be. The events will seek out ways to unite different interdisciplinary areas into the conversation of analyzing “Coriolanus,” Aleskie said.

“[“Coriolnus” and related events] is the marriage of scholarship and public discourse,” Aleskie said. “We have an opportunity to take all of this scholarship and not just have it for research and learning sake, but have it applied to practical conversations about the issues of the day that are relevant.”

The students from the English, film and theater departments have the opportunity to participate in the intensive Experiential Week, commonly known as E-Week, where the students will be able to immerse themselves with the crew of the Stratford Theatre Company and learn their craft in a much more intimate and unique way.

“Several film students are making a documentary about this whole collaboration,” Lazar said. “The English students are learning about production dramaturgy; they are also creating lobby displays, leading Q&A session with the actors and doing a deep dive into the academic side that come out of the show and spreading that to the audience ... Our theatre students [are] interacting very closely with the actors as well as other members of the production staff. They will be taking acting workshops [and] stage combat workshops.” The successful collaboration of the three departments was a very interesting and complex project to bring to fruition, Aleskie said. She added that nonetheless, it is one that effectively seeks to make the event a much more inclusive one, where the student body would be able to take as much advantage as possible from the resources of the event.

“When we first met with the [associate] dean of arts and humanities, Barbara Will and the [chairs] of the departments, it took a bit of conversation for everyone to understand and come together on the same page, but I think that once the idea was established with the teachings during the fall term and the experiential learning week, everybody got really excited,”Aleskie said.

According to theater department professor and director of theater Jamie Horton, professors in the English, film and theater departments were very keen in making student engagement opportunities possible, since they knew that their students could benefit greatly from having insight into the acting craft and the workings of a play.

“We are trying as a department to expand the accessibility of professional theatre for our students and this association with the Stratford Festival speaks very persuasively and I have real hope for the future of this relationship,” Horton said.

English professor Thomas Luxon added that students can also benefit from“Coriolanus” because its subject matter is very fitting with the current global political climate, delving into the power plays of a fragile society, making it relatable for the audience.

“You have to think of [Shakespeare’s] own political climate,” Luxon said. “He is using what he knows of Roman history and thinking of England in 1609. Then we have this production to think about the political situations in which we find ourselves today. [In] Rome, England in 1609 [and now], there are very sharp divisions between the people who rule and the people who are ruled.”

Luxon added that the characters in “Coriolanus” are fickle and ignorant, reflecting today’s “public that is so clueless,” making the production even more relevant to today’s society.

Lazar also said that she is looking forward to a continued relationship with Stratford Theathre Company after the success of “Coriolanus”-related events and the play itself so that other productions can come back to Dartmouth and continue contributing to the Dartmouth community.

“We are trying to view this as a pilot program,” Lazar said. “The kickoff of what we hope is a long-term collaboration. So far it has going well with both Stratford and we seem to think this has a lot of potential to go farther.”