The play's the thing
For those who can't travel to Stratford-Upon-Avon, England to experience firsthand William Shakespeare's legacy, Dennis Brestensky, professor emeritus of English, will bring Shakespeare to Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus for the 41st annual Shakespeare Festival, running Monday through Saturday.
This year's festival will feature a production of “Her Hamlet,” an original composition by Lisa Jackson Shebetta, theater arts professor at the University of Pittsburgh. This play tells the story of Hamlet from the perspective of Judith, Shakespeare's real-life daughter. Jackson-Shebetta says that this play focuses on the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia and also focuses on relationships between fathers and daughters.
The National Players, one of the longest running performing troups in America, will perform “Romeo and Juliet.” Justin Weeks, artistic director of the National Players, says that the story is timeless.
“This story is about youth,” he said. “It's about young love, about violence. People see how dangerous young love can be.”
Weeks said the play will have a modern tone.
“We're reaching out to teens. This play will have text messaging. Also, rather than using daggers, we'll use more modern weapons. We'll be in modern costume, as well.”
Weeks welcomes the opportunity to introduce “Romeo and Juliet” to people who may never have heard this story.
“We're pleased at the way people are responding to the story.” he said.
The play, set in Verona, Italy, focuses on the feud between two leading families, the Capulets and the Monteques. Juliet, a Capulet, and Romeo, a Monteque, fall in love. Knowing that their families would never agree to their marriage, the couple elopes and are wed by Friar Lawrence. He offers her a drug that will put her into a deathlike coma for “two and forty hours.” The Friar promises to send a messenger to inform Romeo of the plan, so that he can rejoin her when she awakens. On the night before the wedding, she takes the drug and, when discovered apparently dead, she is laid in the family crypt.
The messenger, however, does not reach Romeo and, instead, Romeo learns of Juliet's apparent death from his servant Balthasar. Heartbroken, Romeo buys poison from an apothecary and goes to the Capulet crypt. He encounters Paris, who has come to mourn Juliet privately. Believing Romeo to be a vandal, Paris confronts him and, in the ensuing battle, Romeo kills Paris. Still believing Juliet to be dead, he drinks the poison. Juliet then awakens and, finding Romeo dead, stabs herself with his dagger.
This festival was founded in 1972 by Brestensky.
Brestensky will share photos from his trips to Stratford-Upon-Avon. He said that the trips were a memorable experience.
The festival will feature an exhibit from Jeff Martin, a retired teacher from the Albert Gallatin School District.
Barbara Starn is a freelance writer.