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MC Theater Department Presents 45th Annual Shakespeare Showcase Tribute
“I thought it'd be good to bring Shakespeare to a show where they [audiences] can realize Shakespeare isn't intimidating, and it's very entertaining.”
Mississippi College’s Theater department put on a Shakespeare Showcase on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the Jean Pittman Williams Recital Hall in Aven. The one-time performance was at 7:30 p.m. and cost only $5 for students and faculty and $10 for the public. Dr. Phyllis Seawright, assistant professor of theater in the Department of Communication, directed with help from Tori Myers, student director and senior English major. The audience enjoyed cake in the lobby immediately following the variety show.
The event is in honor of the 45th anniversary of the Shakespeare Festival at MC previously put on by former English professor Dr. George Pittman. “He retired the year I came full time, so I only got to work with him for one year,” Seawright said. “We did the first outdoor show in Jennings Courtyard that anybody could remember.”
Seawright wanted to commemorate the showcase in some way and began reaching out to people who remembered the Pittmans. “They were so good at bringing people together… and they always loved having cake, and they were wonderful hosts,” she said. The choice of refreshments was an intentional nod to the Pittmans and theater traditions. “That's the way the British do it when you go to a play.”
Seawright and Myers developed a cast with a variety of faculty members and both graduate and undergraduate students of different ages. The program also featured several younger performers from Mannsdale Upper Elementary and Jackson Public Schools. Dr. David Miller, a professor in the Department of English and Philosophy and director of the Honors Program, emceed the proceedings.
Even though the entire show featured sonnets, songs, and monologues from Shakespeare’s works, Myers wrote an original script that tied the pieces together in a cohesive way. It included original excerpts from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, and Othello – many with a comedic twist. Dr. Eddie Mahaffey of the Christian Studies Department performed Andy Griffith’s take on Romeo and Juliet. Dr. Robert Burgess, assistant library director of Leland Speed Library, performed an excerpt from Hamlet in Klingon. Emma Ellard, a sophomore English major, performed Kat’s monologue from 10 Things I Hate About You, which is a romantic comedy based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.
“Tori and Dr. Seawright really wanted something that was…not necessarily straight Shakespeare so that it could engage a wide range of audiences and be a fun, fascinating take,” Ellard said. The evening’s festivities also included original songs by singer-songwriter Claire Holley that were written for MC’s 2020 performance of The Tempest.
When it came to preparing the actors for their performances, Myers appreciated the knowledge that her time in the English department gave her of Shakespeare’s works. She and Seawright worked one-on-one with performers before their first rehearsal as a full cast.
She wanted to create a fun and interactive experience for audiences. “I love Shakespeare, and I think it's really unfortunate that a lot of people are intimidated by him when he is the foundation of British plays and a lot of the English phrases we use today,” Myers said. “I thought it'd be good to bring Shakespeare to a show where they [audiences] can realize Shakespeare isn't intimidating, and it's very entertaining.”
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