Gannon students participate in trip to American Shakespeare Center


Gannon University students traveled back to the 16th century over fall break by visiting the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va.
The theater is the only replica of Shakespeare’s indoor theater, the Blackfriars playhouse, and follows Shakespeare’s original staging conditions, including acting in a fully lit theater.
Students participating in the trip were able to add it to their schedule for one class credit as a Shakespeare immersion course under the faculty advisers, Doug King, Ph.D., and Alaina Manchester. The course is usually offered every two years and is cheaper than flying to Florida for fall break.
Students in the course paid $210 to participate this year. Those interested in the next immersion course can contact King in the English department at [email protected]
King,, an associate professor of English and faculty adviser of the trip, said students should consider visiting Staunton because it is beautiful.
“It’s charming and utterly delightful,” King said.
The real attraction of the Shakespeare immersion course, however, is seeing live performances of Shakespeare.  King said watching the plays at the American Shakespeare Center is unique.
“Anybody who goes to these enjoys the performance — even if they think they don’t like Shakespeare — because they do it in a way that makes it comprehensible and fun.”
The acting company, made up of 12 actors, doubles up on roles throughout the set of plays. Audiences usually see actors playing three to four roles before the show is over.
The center performs a collection of Shakespearean shows and popular shows. The fall season included “King Lear,” “Twelfth Night,” “King Henry IV, part I” and “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
“King Lear” follows the demise of Lear after he disowns his youngest daughter, Cordelia. His two older daughters, Goneril and Regan, plot against him to rule the kingdom by themselves and Lear finds himself level with his own jester and beggar men.
“Twelfth Night” is a comedy about fraternal twins separated at sea, a sister and brother. The sister, Viola, decides to disguise herself as a man to find work, while her brother Sebastian lands on a different shore. Viola ends up accidentally winning the heart of Olivia, a countess who her master has been trying to court for years, and hilariousness ensues in the cross-dressed mess.
The playhouse renamed the Henry history “The Rise of Queen Margaret,” which depicted her as a villainess but drew audience sympathy in its tragedy and the loss of her lover. The actors depicted scenes of Henry’s court members dying so believably it was difficult to pick sides in the War of the Roses, which the play centers on.
“Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a biographical satire rock musical that proved to be poignant for election season, as it depicts his presidency’s dealings with Native Americans and the Trail of Tears. Filled with cultural references like Reagan’s “Morning in America,” Cher’s “Life after Love,” and campaign apparel that closely resembled Donald Trump’s red ball cap, the musical appears lighthearted and includes a narrator that adds a metatheatrical effect.
Lizzie Gauriloff, a junior English major, said “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson” was her favorite play because it was funny.
“I really enjoyed the satirical element to the piece; it added to the entertainment quality,” Gauriloff said. “Growing up in the South I really enjoy learning about Southern history — and the tight pants.”
Students attended each play and were able to tour the theater, investigate the Mary Baldwin College graduate program focused on Shakespeare and attend workshops on Shakespeare’s work and performing.
Leigh Tischler, a senior English major, said she didn’t have a favorite play but enjoyed the Shakespeare productions especially.
“Seeing Shakespeare live made me like Shakespeare again,” Tischler said. She said she found a lot of relevance in “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
“It’s funny, but when you get to the end and see how parallel the story is to our political climate, it made you feel terrible for laughing,” Tischler said. “But it made it a more wholesome experience.”

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