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. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

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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

 

GRAVEDIGGER’S TALE: Gravedigging Colatown, SC by Louis Butelli

Originally published April 28, 2016 by Louis Butelli.

Hello, friend! Thank you so, so much for popping by for this, our latest dispatch from Gravedigging across the nation.

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So far, my one-man show Gravedigger’s Tale has traveled to Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina. In the morning, I hop on a plane to play the show in Hawaii. There will be plenty to say about that, but, for now, I want to focus on the South Carolina gig. And even more particularly, I want to focus on my dear friend and closest collaborator, Robert Richmond.

It’s hard to know even where to begin about Robert.

I’ll start with where he’s at right now. Rob is the Associate Chair, Co-Artistic Director and Professor of Theatre at University of South Carolina in the enchanted city of Columbia, SC. He also directs plays all over the place, most notably at Folger Theatre in Washington, DC. He is Dad to two beautiful kids, both of whom I’ve had the great pleasure to know since they drew their first breaths. He is a mentor, a teacher, a friend and a confidant to a huge number of people, many of whom now dance alongside us in this ridiculous business. He is a nurturer of talent, a brilliant editor and advisor, and is the person I would call first if I was taken to prison. Admittedly, he’d probably let that call go to voicemail. But he’d be there for my court appearance in the morning, and would have acting and wardrobe notes.

We have worked side by side in a wide variety of venues since 1998, and I hear his voice in my head every time I am required to make an artistic choice: even when I’m working on a project that Rob is not working on, we are still collaborating. As an actor, I think, “what would make Rob laugh?” As a director, I think, “how would Rob solve this problem?” As a teacher, I think, “how would Rob articulate this?” To be fair, sometimes I think that and then do exactly the opposite. But, to be even more fair, most often I outright steal from him, or just do what I imagine he might do.

All of this is to say that there wouldn’t be such a thing as Gravedigger’s Tale without Robert. It was his pitch and his concept and, a year ago, Folger locked he and I in a room with instructions “not to come out” until we “had a show.” I’ve been in that kind of situation before and, believe me: there is nobody else with whom I’d rather be locked in a room – you know, like that crazy “escape puzzle” kind of room – than Robert.

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Rob in a handsome suit.

If I had to put it into words, I would say that the reason for the statement is that we both sort of live for “the room.” We love the problem-solving nature of it. We love the challenge of it. We love the gallows humor that comes from it. We love the heightened emotions that come from it, and how they reflect the work, just by being there with a task at hand. I won’t presume to speak for Robert here, but I also love some of the shittier parts of the room. The too-much coffee. The tired limbs. The eye-wobbling frustration of pounding away at an expired idea. The 11th hour burst of energy, leaping to one’s middle-aged feet when a new idea seems like it just might work.

Additionally, I love how, when I make something with Robert, we find two (or more) ways to the same destination. More than that, I love how, once we’ve made the thing, it takes on a life of its own when it’s unleashed on an audience.

Which brings me to part deux of this blogggg post.

Our Gravedigger show is billed as “interactive.” Now, that means lots of different things to lots of different people. And please believe that I am just as horrified by being asked to “participate” in an evening’s entertainment as the next person. (Please disregard at this point the fact that I currently perform in the amazingly kick-ass Sleep No More. That’s fodder for a whole other post).

In this show, it’s all very gentle. I pull a female audience-member onstage to help me with Ophelia and, more pertinently to this post, I pull a male audience-member onstage to stand in for Hamlet’s father. In the bit, I explain how Hamlet’s uncle poured poison into his father’s ear, and what the effects were. I then “coach” the audience-member in the finer points of dying by poison.

At one of our shows at USC, I spotted a very rapt and eager boy, probably 8 or 9 years old, in the audience with his parents. I couldn’t help myself: I simply had to pull him up and poison him. I won’t waste too many more words on it, but this boy was…perfect. He was open, he was game, he was brave, he was funny, he gave the audience a big “thumbs up,” and he was all anybody could talk about at the reception afterwards.

I’ll close this post with a sequence of pictures of this excellent young man in action:

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Found him!

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Placed him, produced poison!

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He begins to “die…”

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He “dies” simply and elegantly.

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I take his example.

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He does it better than I ever could.

I wish I knew that kid’s name. I wish that he could’ve been in the room with Robert and I when we created the show, because I feel like that kid every time Rob and I get to work together. I hope that kid keeps coming to the theater, regardless of where his life takes him. I just can’t thank him enough. Not to sound like an absolute sap, but I get a little bit misty thinking about our moment on-stage together.

Oh! Just by the way, all of these photos are courtesy of the most excellent Jason Ayer and the University of South Carolina’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

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Thanks for reading! Next stop: HAWAII!!!!!

Come back and see us, y’all!

GRAVEDIGGER’S TALE comes to HVSF October 26 – 31, 2016 inside the Boscobel Mansion!

 

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