To Love or Not to Love

American Shakespeare Center Performs Two Gentlemen of Verona

By Rhea Guzman

The Great American Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage.” Therefore, we are all actors and actresses in our own plays, in our own stories of our lives.

Having previously performed for colleges, high school, festivals and many other events all around the United States, the American Shakespeare Center brought to life Two Gentlemen of Verona on Thursday night, September 29, 2016 at Loyola University.

Similar to Shakespearean theater performances, the lights remained on as the character Valentine proclaimed his love for Silvia, only to find out that his best friend, Proteus, abandons his lover, Julia, to go after Silvia. Filled with both humor and frustration, the American Shakespeare Center actors uniquely incorporated modern gestures and behaviors that, in some ways, enlightened the mood.

Dr. Kate Bossert, a Notre Dame professor who teaches a course on Shakespeare’s comedies, explains the use of contemporary behavior and its effect on the play. “Because William Shakespeare is seen as a high figure, the American Shakespeare Center does what it can to bring the audience to a level of understanding,” she says. “In order to appreciate the complex themes of love and tragedy, it needs to start with understanding the basics, and that’s where the contemporary humor comes in.”

Katherine Martinez, a first-year student who plans to double major in English and international relations and is also taking Dr. Bossert’s Shakespeare course this fall semester, attended Thursday night’s play. After being asked what parallels she took note of in the performance and what she learned in class, Martinez says, “I noticed that both Taming of the Shrew, which we are currently reading in class, and Two Gentlemen of Verona involve at least one character that dresses in a disguise in order to get closer to their lover.” In Two Gentlemen, Julia disguises herself as Proteus’ messenger. In Taming of the Shrew, wealthy Lucentio disguises himself as a poor schoolmaster to be near his lover-at-first-sight, Bianca.

Unlike typical play performances, the American Shakespeare Center gives the audience an opportunity to sit on the very stage that the actors and actresses perform on, actively involving them in the plot. Fortunately, a few Notre Dame students had the chance to sit in these special seats. Having seen the American Shakespeare Center’s plays more than ten times, Lauren Romagnano, a senior who is graduating with a major in English and a double minor in music and drama, was able to interact with the actors on stage. Romagnano says, “I always sit on the stage when I watch plays performed by the American Shakespeare Center. It feels great to be pulled into the action.”

In his time, William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, including Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although his plays were and still are meant for entertainment, the hidden messages spilled throughout his work spark theories, making the widely-known Shakespeare more enigmatic than we think.

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