Getting to know William Shakespeare

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College students who only read “Romeo and Juliet” in the 9th grade may not be keen on attending Utah’s Shakespeare in the Park, but with a little imagination and a desire to enjoy something different, it is possible to make Shakespeare a new and enjoyable part of life.

The Utah Shakespeare in the Park Theatre Company is performing “Othello” through May 28, and may provide a proper first experience for future Shakespeare connoisseurs.

“I love Shakespeare because Shakespeare is written in rhetoric,” said Lawrence Fernandez, a BYU student who plays the lead role of Othello. “Your lines go through your partner on stage, but also through your audience.”

Shakespearean comedies and tragedies are performed so the audience can contribute as well. Instead of just watching the performance, they can become interactive.

“When you come to Shakespeare you don’t have to be quiet,” Fernandez said. “By all means, play with us, laugh at us, cry (with) us.”

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Utah’s Shakespeare in the Park offers a relaxed atmosphere with a natural backdrop. The performers stay true to the script and communicate the story without the aid of a set or many props.

In addition to audience participation in Shakespeare’s plays, the characters themselves provide an interesting twist to many of the stories. Throughout the performance, the audience is able to see the drastic change in Othello.

“(There is) the progression of the character from a strong, valiant man, to a corrupted man,” Fernandez said.

The language of Shakespeare is not the American English many viewers are accustomed to. While it is different, it is possible to understand.

“The language is so strong and still so poignant,” said Julie Doud, an Orem resident who will perform in Shakespeare in the Park’s “Julius Caesar,” later this summer.

When talking of the famous plays, Doud spoke fondly of the intricate nature of the Renaissance language. Doud acquired an interest for Shakespeare in 7th grade when she had to memorize a verse from a play. The in-depth study of the language made it easier for her to enjoy Shakespeare.

For people hoping to gain an appreciation for Shakespeare, Doud suggests breaking down the play piece-by-piece and focusing on one verse at a time.

While William Shakespeare wrote during the Renaissance period, his influence is often found in modern media. Popular film adaptions of famous Shakespearean plays include “Kiss Me Kate,” “West Side Story,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “She’s the Man” and even “The Lion King.”

The Utah Shakespeare in the Park Theatre Company is performing “Othello” May 23-28 in Provo and Orem. Specific times and locations, as well as future performances are available at utahshakespeareinthepark.wordpress.com.

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