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IU Kokomo students travel to Shakespeare festival

March 29, 2012

KOKOMO, Ind. — Imagine traveling back in time more than 400 years, and attending a new play written by William Shakespeare, in the Blackfriars Playhouse.

Indiana University Kokomo students experienced two Shakespeare plays as they would have been performed in his time, on a class trip to the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va.

The group saw "Richard III" and "Much Ado About Nothing" at the center's Blackfriars Playhouse, designed to match its namesake in London. The playhouse was Shakespeare's second theater after The Globe.

Sophomore Taylor Boike thought it was interesting to see how the actors perform Shakespeare plays as produced in the 1600s, with few sets, lights on in the audience, and actors portraying opposite gender characters.

"I learned a lot about how actors worked in that time, and the ins and outs of professional acting today. I have so much respect for what they do there," she said. "This is an experience I will always remember at IU Kokomo."

Joe Keener, assistant professor of English, said experiencing live performances of the plays, in addition to reading them, makes Shakespeare's work more than an academic subject.

"They saw that Shakespeare and drama aren't just ideas you learn for a class or for your student production. It's alive and vibrant, out in the real world. I can try my best to convey this idea in a classroom, but these productions are worth thousands of my words."

Keener teamed with Joann Kaiser, who teaches drama, to offer the trip as a one credit hour course, with 12 students and eight faculty and staff.

Senior Evelyn Wilcox hadn't studied Shakespeare yet, but enjoyed the opportunity to see two of his plays onstage and to meet students and faculty she hadn't spent time with before the trip.

"I hadn't managed to squeeze any extracurricular activities into my schedule yet, so this is really the first time I have branched out to meet new people and experience new things."

Kaiser, lecturer in communication arts, said the first-time experiences for the students, such as first time riding an Amtrak train, were as meaningful as the academic benefits.

"The trip opened up a whole new worldview for many of these students," she said.

She said seeing Shakespeare performed live makes it more meaningful than reading it in class.

"Students saw his language and drama has meaning today. This trip combined what they will learn in history, literature and drama courses they will take at IU Kokomo in the future.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 08/14/2014