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Campus stages ‘The Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Steel Magnolias’

Notre Dame students are taking the stage this weekend in two different shows. The department of film, television and theatre (FTT) will be staging Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias” at the Decio Theatre in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Nov. 10-13. Elsewhere on campus, the Not-So-Royal-Shakespeare Company (NSR) will be putting on “A Winter’s Tale” at the Washington Hall Lab Theater, November 10-12. 

Both plays share the label of a “tragicomedy,” which FTT professor Carys Kresny, director of the “Steel Magnolias” production, said is sure to ignite all of the audience’s emotions. She said this weekend presents a unique opportunity for a double feature for play-lovers.

“People can have a blast going to both,” Kresny said.

She also described the nature of the tragicomedy: “A friend of mine used to say that she loved a happy-sad sandwich.”

“Steel Magnolias” is ‘laughter through tears’

“Steel Magnolias” is a play about a group of women set in Louisiana in the 1980s. Kresny hinted at what the audience should expect from FTT’s production.

“There’s a line from the play, which I think sums it up,” Kresny said. “‘Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.’ It’s really, really funny, but there’s also real human experiences that are pretty tough that happened in the play … And you know what? [At first,] I was like, ‘This is a chick-flick, this is a girl play.’ But the guys who have seen it so far have just been laughing their heads off, not at the women, but with them.” 

Kresny continued by explaining other initial hesitations she had about “Steel Magnolias.”

“When I took on the production, I was a little bit skeptical of this play because it was all about women, but women’s experiences written by a guy,” Kresny said. “But it’s really amazing how authentic it is. I think the reason is because this playwright, he wrote it to honor his sister, for starters, and he wrote it directly out of his own experience — each woman is based on someone he actually knows and loves.” 

Kresny said the hard work and dedication on behalf of the cast and crew have made the production a “vivid visual treat.”

“It’s a really big tech show. There’s all kinds of fun aspects of the set. The costumes are incredibly detailed and the hair obviously does all kinds of things. So there’s a lot to look at, and that takes a lot of thought, time and organization both on the part of the designers and the actors,” Kresny said. “Everyone has had a blast working with each other, and the actors have been just a delight for me. The whole way through, they’ve really stepped up … So if you are in the mood to get your ‘80s on, we’re here for you.”

“The Winter’s Tale” is ‘one of Shakespeare’s most beautifully written plays

The Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company cast of “The Winter’s Tale.” / Courtesy of Emily Hanson

The cast and crew of NSR’s production of “The Winter’s Tale” echo how, for their play, its “coming together” was a product of commitment and collaboration. The Shakespeare group is completely student-run, which Dominic Keene, a junior studying electrical engineering and FTT, says led community in the club.

“It has been a fair time commitment, depending on what kind of role you have,” Keene said. “But we have a lot of fun with it. And at least to me, it doesn’t feel like a time commitment. It feels like an excuse to hang out with my friends every day. And that’s part of the reason I love it … My reason for doing theater is getting to spend all those hours in the rehearsal room, getting to know people. I’ve never made bonds with people and friendships the way I’ve made friendships in a rehearsal room.”

Ryan Mantey, a junior studying philosophy, classics and FTT, agreed.

“I joined up the first semester of my freshman year and everyone was very kind and just open to receiving anyone and everyone who was interested in theater and in Shakespeare,” Mantey said.

This weekend’s production was selected both for its beauty and its application to modern audiences, said director Noah Sim, a junior studying computer science and history.

“‘The Winter’s Tale’ is one of Shakespeare’s most beautifully written plays,” Sim said. “Some of the language and the structure of his phrases are really just, well, beautiful. The story is not too intense, but still very important, I think, even for a modern audience.”

Eliza Chaney, a sophomore studying political science, international relations and economics said that Shakespeare is still important.

“A lot of people are turned away from Shakespeare because they’re like, ‘Oh, the language is really old, I won’t understand it,’” Chaney said. “But this play in particular, actually, there’s so much in there that’s really still very relevant and relatable to a modern audience. We all feel jealousy, we feel insecurity, we feel love, like all of those emotions are very human, regardless of when it was written. And I think that definitely comes through in the play … So come along, we’ve put in a lot of hours and effort, and we can’t wait to show you.”

Christina Randazzo, a senior studying psychology and FTT, describes the play as “a tragedy when you give it time.” Randazzo hints at the “scandal” and “twists and turns” that the audience can expect.

“There may be romance. There may be babies thrown into fires. There may be people mauled by bears, but you will just have to come and see for yourself,” Randazzo said. “But this play is a group of the most dedicated people that I’ve ever met and had the pleasure of knowing. I think their dedication and love for what they’re doing is really evident in what you will see.”

You can contact Kelsey Quint at kquint@nd.edu.

Categories
Scene

AFTLS: Collaborating with Shakespeare through Macbeth

Actors From the London Stage (AFTLS) performed Shakespeare’s tragedy of “Macbeth” at Washington Hall on Oct. 5, 6 and 7. During his life, Shakespeare knew the actors he was writing for and collaborated with them on the play’s performances. While actors cannot directly collaborate with Shakespeare anymore, AFTLS still aims to work with him.

The fascinating part about watching AFTLS is seeing the five-cast company take on multiple roles. Portraying a multi-faceted Shakespearean character is an accomplishment, and AFTLS actors
portray multiple roles. The production of “Macbeth” gave me a deeper appreciation of the art form this company is seeking to accomplish.

They imagine the reality of the theater Shakespeare performed in
and bring this to light. Their creative liberties are chosen for distinct reasons. In “Macbeth,” these creative liberties provided a contrast to the storyline. “Macbeth” is not solely the tragedy of a power-hungry man who chooses to commit murder to fulfill the three witches’ prophesy. It has comedic moments and actors who wish to interact with the audience.

Each of the cast members mastered the subjects they were playing. Roger May as Macbeth brought about the hesitation Macbeth felt about killing King Duncan and later, the shift of Macbeth into the tyrant.

Several moments throughout the play were comedic and part of this relates to the structure of AFTLS. In order to differentiate the cast members, AFTLS uses props to reflect which character the actor is portraying. In the scene where Lady Macduff (Anne Odeke) is murdered, one of the murderers is also played by Odeke. Annabelle Terry, who plays Lady Macduff’s son, holds up the cloth that is Lady Macbeth’s distinguishing prop. The scene of the two murderers fighting and killing a cloth was highly humorous, especially amid a tragic scene. Additionally, the scene with the drunk porter (Annabelle Terry) incorporated the use of props, enhancing the humor of the scene. In this scene, Terry also interacted with an audience member. In Shakespeare’s time, the audience and the actors had a relationship in some ways. Terry appeared in both “Much Ado About Nothing” in January and the “Macbeth” production in October. Terry’s acting as Banquo was exceptionally well done, especially when Banquo is a ghost.

The shift of Macbeth is brought about through Lady Macbeth (Claire Redcliffe). Redcliffe and May’s performance showed audience members the love between the two. The way May expressed Macbeth’s heartbreak over losing Lady Macbeth caused
emotions to come rushing through the audience. Lady Macbeth’s original girl boss, gatekeep and gaslight persona was brought out in her scenes. Redcliffe showcased this aspect of her character and the emotional fragility she feels at the end. Portraying the complicated Lady Macbeth was one of many roles Redcliffe played. Redcliffe also played Donalbain, Ross, Fleance, Second Witch, Young Siward
and Messenger. Playing Lady Macbeth and one of the witches is a powerful combination. Through their actions, the witches and Lady Macbeth spur the tragedy in this play.

Treason is what causes Macbeth to gain the title of “Thane of Cawdor” and to lose the title of King. It is treason that gives Macbeth power, but treason that takes it away. Macduff (Michael Wagg), the man who is not borne of woman, stops the tyrant. The actors brought Shakespeare’s pages to light in the way it was meant to be performed.

Play: “Macbeth”
Starring: Roger May, Anne Odeke, Claire Redcliffe, Annabelle Terry, Michael Wagg
Produced by: Actors from The London Stage
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5

Contact Rose at randrowich01@saintmarys.edu.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this review misidentified Kenneth Branagh as part of the AFTLS cast. The Observer regrets this error.