ShakespeaRevel festival commemorates playwright’s legacy through assorted events


Lauren Duquette/Daily Senior Staffer

Students rehearse for an aerial performance that will be featured at the upcoming Revel at The Rock. The event will be a part of ShakespeaRevel, a campus-wide festival commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

Kelley Czajka, Reporter


All of Northwestern will be a stage starting Friday with the beginning of ShakespeaRevel, a campus-wide festival commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The event, which runs until May 1, comprises a wide range of Shakespeare-related events across a variety of mediums — from film to improv to video games.

“Shakespeare keeps popping up everywhere … it’s not just on the stage and it’s not just in the texts of his plays,” said Ira Murfin, graduate assistant for public humanities at the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. “Shakespeare becomes this kind of cultural capital that people draw on, reference, cite, adapt (and) fit to their cultural contexts in all sorts of different ways.”

The festival is modeled off of Shakespeare 400 Chicago, a city-wide festival commemorating the playwright’s legacy with nearly 850 events planned for this year, Murfin said.

He added that several events in ShakespeaRevel are cross-listed in Shakespeare 400 Chicago, including Friday’s kickoff event, a screening of “Catch My Soul” — a psychedelic rock opera adaptation of “Othello” — at the Block Museum of Art.

The festival continues with a series of eclectic events on April 28, Murfin said.

Gina Bloom, a University of California, Davis, professor, will present “Play the Knave,” a video game she created in which a player can perform chosen Shakespearean scenes karaoke-style. The game will be set up in University Hall for a few hours, and afterward she will give a talk about how the video game can be used to help teach Shakespeare in the classroom.

There will also be a wide range of Shakespeare-related acts by The Rock, as a part of an event called Revel at The Rock. The acts range from puppetry to an excerpt of the mainstage production of “The Tempest,” which will be performed April 22 to May 1 at the Barber Theater.

Skye Geerts, a first-year student in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama program, will perform in a two-person static trapeze performance to a song from Joss Whedon’s film version of “Much Ado About Nothing” at Revel at The Rock. Geerts, who practices this form of trapeze as a hobby, said she was happy to be able to incorporate it into the festival.

SPG Improv, an improv troupe for graduate students, will play a series of Shakespeare-themed improv games at Revel at The Rock, said Grace Overbeke, a third-year student in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama program and a member of the troupe.

Overbeke said the event will attempt to recreate a style from medieval times in which pageant wagons were used to perform outdoors.

“That idea of performance all around you happening in the open air is sort of what I am hoping will happen,” she said.

The ShakespeaRevel website contains a calendar of all the festival’s events as well as an interactive element in which people can submit video recitations of Shakespeare passages, Murfin said.

The video project, “400 for the 400th,” was developed by Danny Snelson, a postdoctoral fellow in digital humanities at NU. Snelson will cut words from each of the submissions and compile them into one video that brings together the voice of everyone who submitted, he said.

Snelson emphasized the kind of immediacy that comes out of this video performance, and he said the final product will be a snapshot of the community around NU as people engage with Shakespeare’s legacy.

“There’s a kind of authentic engagement that you have with a person when they’re reading in front of their computers as though it’s a Skype conversation with Shakespeare,” he said.

Murfin said he hopes the festival will foster a sense of community on campus, as well as prompt them to reflect on the ways Shakespeare has remained relevant in people’s lives and been reimagined in contemporary contexts.

“It’s a very exciting time to think through Shakespeare,” Snelson said. “It’s a very exciting time when a whole city and multiple cities… are coming together to think about what Shakespeare means to us today.”

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