Yellow Stocking Players to perform Night of Scenes

If you’ve seen even one play, whether a professional production or the product of a high school’s drama class, you have likely seen a performance of Shakespeare. One of the most performed of all English playwrights, Shakespeare dominates the curriculum of English and theatre classes. From “Macbeth” to “Hamlet” to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the storylines and themes of the Bard’s works have influenced writers and artists to present day. One difficulty, of course, is that William Shakespeare’s nearly 40 plays are quite a lot to take in, with many productions lasting more than three hours.

One Swarthmore group is here to help. The Yellow Stocking Players, Swarthmore’s drama group dedicated solely to performing Shakespeare, will be performing The Night of Scenes this coming weekend in Upper Tarble Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., as well as Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

The Night of Scenes, funded by Drama Board, involves the performance of selected scenes from various Shakespeare plays, rather than performing an entire play all in one. This gives actors more chances to focus on their character in a particular scene and gives the audience a wide spectrum of quick snapshots of different plays and some of the ideas therein.

“First of all, it reduces the burden on both actors and directors,” said Allison McKinnon ’13, who plays Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth” and is Publicity Manager for the Yellow Stocking Players. “While performing Shakespeare, it takes a huge amount of intellectual energy to decode and interpret the text, let alone clearly communicate with an audience. Doing just one or a few scenes allows the directors and actors to do that selection justice with a more modest and flexible rehearsal schedule.”

The group’s name comes from a scene in “Twelfth Night” in which yellow stockings are supposedly a signal of love. “Twelfth Night” was the Yellow Stocking Players’ first production, in 2009.

“I liked reading Shakespeare, but despite being in almost every theatrical production in my high school, I had limited experience performing it” McKinnon said. “I signed up on Drama Board and ended up having a huge amount of fun. The cast decided to try to stick together for more productions, and we named ourselves after a particularly amusing moment in Twelfth Night, where Malvolio [played at the time by Harry Apostoleris ’12, and in this production by Glenn Stott ’12], is tricked into donning an outrageous outfit,” she said.

Although the Yellow Stocking Players sometimes perform whole plays and sometimes a collection of scenes, one factor remains constant: they always perform Shakespeare.

“We’re a group of Shakespeare players — and even then, we’ve certainly discussed doing some Shakespeare contemporaries or related literature. We did ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), and “Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” could conceivably be in the works. But I think most people do other Drama Board shows as well,” Julia Cooper ’12, the technical director, said. “Shakespeare has such a distinct performance style and requires so much text work, it’s useful to have a group of people with a certain rehearsal system devoted to it.”

Shakespeare also has the benefit of focusing the entire group’s talents on a particular style, and building bonds between members that last more than the time it takes to rehearse and perform a single play. “Directors choose the play and the scenes, so they can incorporate their artistic vision while selecting for the very ‘best of Shakespeare,’” McKinnon said.

“Despite my deep and unquestionable love for the Bard, even I recognize that no play is consistently first-rate: even ‘Hamlet’ has some dodgy bits, and there are always parts that are too outdated to appeal to a modern audience. Each director has relatively unfettered creative control over their scenes, and they only work with a few actors, so they have more room to experiment and play,” she said.

The Night of Scenes will include short performances of scenes from six plays, including selections from both comedies and tragedies: “Twelfth Night,” “As You Like It,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Taming of the Shrew,” as well as “Antony and Cleopatra” and “Macbeth.” “I’m an actor, so directing doesn’t come naturally. But I try to let my love of the work, and the innate wit and energy in the scene, shine through,” said Dinah Dewald ’13, a director.

“The most rewarding part is not even when I see some direction implemented well — I love it when my actors get involved in the part and start suggesting things they would like to try, or different ways to interpret the text. I’m really just an audience to tell them what works and what doesn’t,” Dewald said.

Each scene will highlight different actors and directors in a focused take on some of the most fascinating aspects of Shakespeare. “Directing comes with its own challenges, but coordinating a bunch of scenes directed by different people requires extra creativity and flexibility from everyone. Different directors have absolutely distinct styles, but I think we’ve worked hard to share advice and ask questions of each other to improve all of our rehearsal processes,” Cooper said.

The directors of the play include Holly Kinnamont ‘12 for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Cooper for “Antony & Cleopatra,” Dewald or “As You Like It,” Chris Klaniecki ’10 for “Macbeth,” Amelia Dornbush ’15 for “The Taming of the Shrew” and Sara Morell ’15 for “Twelfth Night.”

“While a night of scenes may not provide the same depth and extensive character development as a full play, our production will give the audience the opportunity to see many talented actors playing an iconic character during an especially extraordinary scene,” McKinnon said.

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