A Note from Mark Hartfield, Polk State Theatre Program Director:
Theatre and all performing arts are having a rough time right now. It is hard to weigh the benefits of telling stories or performing music or dance that might be uplifting and instructive against the dangers of spreading a virus that has caused so much pain and anguish in our country and around the world. As educators, we have the additional charge to try and continue to educate and train our students so that their journeys are not stopped by our current circumstances. In theatre, this means affording them the opportunity to perform – in front of a live audience. Over the summer, we came up with a plan to allow for that opportunity. It involves cooperation from everyone involved, from the actors and director to the stage manager and technicians. It includes our college security and maintenance personnel, and our faculty and administrators. And it includes our audience. Our success relies on everyone doing their part to follow the guidelines we have set to seat a limited number of people in the theatre and keep them at a safe distance from each other and the stage. To continue to wear masks inside the building to ensure the safety of everyone sharing the space. And to follow the instructions for entering and exiting the theatre. If everyone does their part, we will continue to find ways to present live theatre, to train our students, and to provide an escape and maybe even a little hope for everyone. Thank you for coming. Thank you for understanding. Enjoy the show.
Special Thanks To:
Thom Altman and Dan Chesnicka at Theatre Winter Haven, Cristina Hartfield, and the Polk State College leadership for their support.
Technical Theatre Class:
Jonathan Davis, Berenise Dominguez, Christian Sabot, Liz Echevarria, Olivia Ulch
A Note from the Playwright – Mary Jane Schaefer:
I’ve been asked many times why I write plays about Shakespeare. The short answer is that I love him and his work. And I’m fascinated by his emergence as the towering artist he became. But, again, the question is put: What does he matter now, another dead white European male? And, let’s be honest, how relevant are his plays anymore?
Without the work he left behind, especially the plays that Shakespeare’s actor friends took pains to gather, rescue, restore, and publish after his death, Shakespeare would not be remembered today. Would he be even a footnote? But we do have his plays, and they are important for several reasons.
The key to their importance lies in Shakespeare’s genius, of course, but also to the circumstances of his birth; for Shakespeare was born at a turning point in English culture, as well as the culture of Western Europe. Religion was still deeply embedded in the consciousness of the people. Yet, the spirit of reason, exploration, freedom of thought, and, indeed, a more secular understanding of man’s place in the world was spreading.
While our friend Will was growing up in a devoutly religious home, he was also being educated in the heritage of the ancient Romans and Greeks, not merely in their languages, but in their practice of dramatic and comedic writing for the stage. In their plays was a world vastly different from the Judeo-Christian heritage of the time. So, here we have a man, born at a historical crossroads, who happened to have imagination, an amazing ear, creative drive, and a literary sense trained for the immediacy of the theater. And, somehow, he found his way to the London stage, where all his gifts came to fruition.
The plays he wrote were almost always based upon well-known stories or plots. And, yet, from these stories, he shaped dramas that captured an astonishing range of emotional and intellectual experience. Take Hamlet. There were several earlier versions of this story, at least one of them a play, and they followed the expected trajectory of a traditional revenge tragedy plot. But in his hands, the story of Hamlet was transformed into a consideration of the entire human predicament.
Though there is joy in human life or the possibility of joy, there is no such thing a pure and perfect life. Terrible things can happen even to the best people. Longings go unsatisfied; there are betrayals and unbearable losses. And, in the end, there is Death, waiting for us, grinning his grim an ancient grin. How does a man face this and not go mad?
We find all this in Hamlet as well as the other great tragedies. But I believe Hamlet to be one of the key documents of modern Western Civilization. If it had not been written and preserved, you and I would be different people and have different thoughts and lives. The influence of Shakespeare is not a question of his famous quotations, but of his actual presence within us, whether we are aware of it or not.
Shakespeare Rising is the first play of my trilogy, The Lives of Shakespeare. All three plays try to portray what Shakespeare might really have been like. I want him to be seen as a man, not a monument, writing from his own experiences of life, dramatizing what it means to be human in unforgettable words. Holding his mirror up to us all.
Coming in November…