The English Department’s annual trip to Stratford is something I’ve been looking forward to for almost two years now. I attended as a sophomore and was unable to go during my junior year, and so I was determined to go during my final year at Wittenberg.
As a double major in English and Theatre, the Stratford trip seems right up my alley, but in reality, The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is something that just about anyone can enjoy. Annually, the produce an incredible diverse range of shows from classical works, including Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and even ancient Greek shows like Oedipus Rex, to modern musicals; in the past few years, these have included Tommy, 42nd Street, and The Sound of Music–all of which were stellar productions.
This year I had the pleasure of attending the Festival’s production of She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith. Originally published in 1773, She Stoops to Conquer was a play I had read multiple times in my studies between courses in English literature, Theatre History, and acting. I thought I knew this play. I was dead wrong.
The play I had read–which contained a few polite chuckles but mainly served as a rather dry, generic farce–was brought to life like I never imagined it could, receiving a standing ovation, almost bringing down the house with laughter.
For me, this is the real appeal of the Festival, which goes beyond simply seeing Theatre and taking in a lovely city. The real joy for me is seeings plays given tremendous amount of life and vigor in a way that could only be done by a world-class company.
The same could be said about the Festival’s production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Here is a text that everyone majoring in Theatre or English has read extensively. In many of my Theatre classes, when teachers need an example off the top of their heads, Hamlet serves as the “quick reference” Shakespeare play because everybody knows it. Before seeing Hamlet at The Stratford Festival, I thought I knew it too. At the Festival, I saw a version of the play which was modern, in costume, in its lighting, and in its overall productions, but one that also handled the text so deftly and so well, it was like seeing the most faithful Shakespearean production in the world. The care and skill that went into crafting the production made sure that not a single bit of Shakespeare’s play was lost (despite the plethora of thous, but softs, and forsooths), and broughy Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy tremendous amount of life, and even a great deal of humor.
I would highly recommend to any English student with time left at Wittenberg, to attend the Stratford Shakespeare Festival next fall. It will only make you fall even more deeply in love with English by allowing you to experience the plays in a way that you simply cannount experience in the greatest Lit. class on the planet.
– Carl Burgason ’16