Kate Hamill’s Top 7 ‘Musts’ for an Ideal Mr. Darcy

When considering Jane Austen’s aloof, hard-headed Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which devilishly handsome leading man comes to mind? If you’re like anyone with access to BBC or A&E in the mid-’90s, Colin Firth may be your go-to embodiment of this unlikely romantic hero, having appeared in 1995’s made-for-television Pride & Prejudice directed by Simon Langton.

“Women being attracted to [Mr. Darcy] took me by surprise,” Firth recently told The Daily Mail. “When I took on the role it seemed to me that he was imperious and stiff and forbidding, and I didn’t know what there was to play apart from him scowling all the time. I thought it would be quite fun and liberating to play someone who was completely and utterly dislikeable, unsympathetic, judgmental and snobbish.”

Darcy may find a foe in Firth, but a friend in playwright Kate Hamill. Hamill’s playful adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE makes its debut under the HVSF Theater Tent this summer, and not without the weirdo women (and men) who’ve become signature players in a Hamill adaptation.

“I’m so disinterested in beautiful, perfect people,” beamed Hamill. “Lizzy Bennet’s a total weirdo and should be treated as such. She and Darcy are both odd ducks… odd ducks that swim together.”

So how will Hamill’s Odd Duck Darcy shape up this summer? Here are her top seven must-haves in an ideal leading man:

  1. Righteous: “He tries to do the right thing all the time”
  2. Smart: “He’s capable of being quite nerdy.”
  3. Stubborn: “That’s a big one!”
  4. Principled: “He has to be someone with a lot of integrity.”
  5. Funny: “Intentionally and unintentionally, for sure.”
  6. Magnetic: “Someone you feel a deep connection with.”
  7. But, above all: “HUMAN! There’s just no other way to put it.”

 

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is in previews June 10 – June 23, 2017 and runs June 24 – September 4, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public on March 15, but members of our Saints & Poets Society and Festival Circles have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

Love is a Devil: Director Ian Belknap on LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST

“Masculine desire… what is it? What is love when you’re young?”

If LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST Director Ian Belknap had answers to his questions, he probably wouldn’t be exploring them onstage with us this summer.

This classic tale of eight unwitting young lovers follows a familiar trajectory: Boys make a pact. Attractive girls arrive. Love blossoms, and the pact is no more. It’s an age-old story told and retold in Tennyson’s The Princess, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida, and even – to some extent – in Dennis Dugan’s block-buster film Saving Silverman.


“I would forget her; but a fever she
Reigns in my blood and will remember’d be.”

Dumain, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST


O, the weight of young love!

Still, layers of self-discovery, emotional curiosity, and forbidden romance within LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST continue to resonate onstage. Belknap finds that first piece – self-discovery – particularly worthy of reexamination this year, as LOVE’S cast, the HVSF Conservatory Company, embark on a unique journey of their own. Following the Conservatory Company’s appearance under the theater tent this summer, these eight young actors will bring the show on tour to schools with The Acting Company (for which Belknap serves as Artistic Director) leading finally to their acceptance into Actors’ Equity, a key milestone in the life of a professional actor.

“These are eight actors depicting eight lovers, and so much more,” noted Belknap. “Our cut is fast-paced with players moving fluidly between roles and there’s something powerful about these emerging actors playing similarly-aged students and their educated instructors. Student becomes teacher, just as the princess becomes the queen in the final notes of Act 5.”


“Masculine desire… what is it? What is love when you’re young?”

– Ian Belknap


One might say this play, in particular, is itself a labor of love: “LOVE’S offers some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful, but densely written, language. It’s tough for any actor, but once you’ve done it… you’ve done it.”

“And only a writer of Shakespeare’s caliber would have the courage to craft that final scene,” admitted Belknap. “‘The news I bring is heavy in my tongue. The king, your father’ is dead. Seriously?! It’s devastating because Shakespeare waits until the absolute last second to bring the news of the King’s death. It’s shocking because there has been little to no foreshadowing and then, at the 23rd hour, BOOM. Childhood ends. These characters – these actors – take up the mantle of adulthood.”

But let’s get back to that youthful romance…

“As is the case with ROMEO & JULIET, my hope is that students can easily see themselves in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST because they’ve been here before,” admitted Belknap. “They’ve known young love, forbidden love. They’ve made the same jokes about the teachers and adults in their lives. They know what trying to maintain one’s honor means. To them, it means an awful lot.”

 

LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST runs August 14 – August 29, 2017 under the tent (including free family matinees on August 15, 22, and 29), and tours with The Acting Company this fall. Season tickets go on sale to the public March 15, but members of our Saints & Poets Society (March 8) and Festival Circles (March 1) have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

Once a Teacher, Always a Student: Poughkeepsie Educator Reflects on Methods

Students to the north in Poughkeepsie, NY – a historic, sprawling city on the Hudson River – have found a literary champion in middle school English teacher Elizabeth Morehead. Morehead, an educator at Orville A. Todd Middle School, participated in HVSF’s Teachers’ Shakespeare Institute nearly a decade ago. Ten years later, she’s still sharing the energy, methods, and impact she discovered there with her own students:

When I reflect upon my twelve years in teaching English Language Arts on the secondary level, there is one defining moment that changed my approach to teaching literature overall. It was in the summer of 2007 that I attended the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s (HVSF) Teachers’ Institute and suddenly there was a distinctive ”before and after” in my educational methodology.

Over a career in the classroom, a teacher is offered a myriad of professional development opportunities, some more worthwhile than others. During a summer, ten years ago, I was being trained in: using a Smartboard in the classroom, implementing a new online grading system, and tracking students’ achievement in reading using another online program. It was serendipitous that I was then introduced to HVSF. In pursuit of solid techniques to teach Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to eighth grade students, I discovered this organization. What I did not know then was that attending this professional development opportunity with HVSF would not only fortify me with sound educational procedures to teach Shakespeare’s dramas, but it would also impact my approach to teaching literature. I am markedly more confident in my delivery of instruction when tackling Shakespeare and have been asked to teach students and teachers at colleges in the Hudson Valley who are looking for ways to learn or enhance their approach. All of this success I owe to my training with HVSF.


“…it would also impact my approach to teaching literature.”

– Elizabeth Morehead, educator


In both the seventh and eighth grade classroom, I continue to employ methods learned from that very first HVSF Teachers’ Institute and from the close to ten institutes I have attended subsequently. In fact, many of the techniques I use with students are all methods used with the literature we read and analyze prior to diving into Shakespeare. Students are schooled in the methods of working with the text to validate their ideas, choices and stances with poems, short stories, novels and autobiographical works we read. Well before we begin reading and performing Shakespeare, students are accustomed to approaching literature in this manner and that allows us to be able to focus on the rigor of Shakespeare’s writing which very often feels antique and lofty to today’s student.

Because of my work with HVSF’s Teachers’ Institute and the organization at large, I have been able to add Macbeth to our seventh grade curriculum and, in turn, have been given the opportunity of exposing students to Shakespeare at a younger age when they are less hesitant and free from the fear people generally associate with reading, performing, and even watching Shakespeare’s works. I have taken on the responsibility of making most, if not all, of my students’ first experience with Shakespeare positive and highly engaging. I would not be able to do so without the invaluable approaches I have learned with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.


“I have been given the opportunity of exposing students to Shakespeare at a younger age, when they are less hesitant and free from the fear people generally associate with reading…”

– Elizabeth Morehead, educator


Former students who come back to visit after high school and college continue to reminisce about their Shakespeare experience in middle school. Some students say it sparked a love for his work. Others say, “I wish teachers presented Shakespeare’s plays the way you did,” and many just want to laugh at the memories we made exploring the play through performance. These compliments I owe to HSVF and the methods they have given me over the last ten years in making Shakespeare not just accessible, but memorable to students with a wide variety of abilities.

 

Thanks, Elizabeth! Learn more about HVSF’s Teachers’ Shakespeare Institute here