Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This weekend, The Yellow Stocking Players are putting on another Night of Scenes. Directed by Jamie Burke ‘15, Aaron Wagener ‘17, and Rebeka Gomez Wick ‘15, the show features about an hour of scenes from Hamlet, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and other Shakespearean works.
This year, the show involves several location changes. Each scene takes place in a different area of campus. “It starts out with one scene in Upper Tarble, then moves outside for a scene, then moves to the Science Center and ends at Upper Tarble,” Burke said. Commenting on the movement between scenes, Burke noted, “I put way too much thought into the music for the scene transitions.”
The variety of locations allowed the group to explore and play with different physical spaces. A monologue from Hamlet is delivered in a small, intimate hallway while a scene from Julius Caesar is performed in the much wider space of SCI 101.
The only Shakespearean-focused theater group at Swarthmore, The Yellow Stocking Players have been a campus staple for several years now. Burke recalled seeing the Night of Scenes his freshman year and remembered being excited to join the group. “I did the full play the next Spring, and I’ve done every play since then,” Burke said.
“The whole group is very easygoing, and I had heard good things about the way they approach theater,” said Maddy Feldman ‘17, who plays Hamlet and Phoebe in the show. “We did a lot of building cast camaraderie, and we did a lot of theater games to get to know each other as a group.” She noted that this effort to build relationships paid off later during Tech Week.
Each scene within the show is the result of collaboration and experimentation between the group members. “It’s really amazing to see people get a scene and not really know what to make of it, not really sure how to make it clear. It’s been really cool to see them just own it,” Wagener said. “We’ve done a lot of stuff with body language, and it’s been very active.”
Wagener noted that much of the comedy within the show came from the actors playing around.“It’s been rewarding seeing people do hilarious things that I could never do myself. Someone will just make a certain dramatic facial expression and it’ll be perfect, and I never would have thought of it myself,” he said.
The popularity of Shakespeare has historically allowed theater groups to experiment with different ways of portraying the same plays. “It’s been around for so long, and there are a lot of different layers and a lot of different interpretations,” Wagener said. “It’s been fun to play around with.”
“Shakespeare is heightened reality,” Feldman said. “There is so much in his texts, even when we’re dealing with small portions of it that it’s possible to really delve into the nuances of it and to find little things in the language that can transform the scene.”
The show celebrates the prolific, dense work of Shakespeare in an accessible, entertaining way. “It was nice to let loose with these people and to not do Shakespeare very seriously, and to just have fun with it,” Feldman said. The result is an eclectic revitalization of the Bard’s ubiquitous work.
Featured image courtesy of Swarthmore’s The Yellow Stockings Players Facebook.