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Arts: Much ado about 400th anniversary of Bard’s death

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

The lines of Shakespeare will come to life for a week in early February.

Actors from the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va., will participate in the second annual Georgetown Shakespeare Festival with a public performance of “Henry V” on Feb. 6 and a matinee of “Julius Caesar” for area school children on Feb. 8. Both performances will be in Winyah Auditorium.

The festival is being presented by the Georgetown School of Arts and Sciences. It opens on Feb. 3 with a lecture by Dr. Scott Lucas, professor of English at The Citadel, and concludes on Feb. 10 with a lecture by Laura Rose, director of Holy City Shakespeare. Both lectures are part of the school’s “Open Forum” series. There will be workshops during the week.

The American Shakespeare Center is the preeminent Shakespeare troupe in the nation, according to Gary Gates, the head of school at the Georgetown School of Arts and Sciences. Shakespeare is performed in a replica of an Elizabethan theater. “I took a group of kids there,” Gates said, “and that was the beginning of this relationship.”

The troupe came to the Georgetown school last year, filling in an open date, and agreed to come back and perform again. “This year,” Gates said, “we are on their regular list.”

The performances will tie in with the Georgetown School’s curriculum, which uses Shakespeare in English, drama and history classes. Public schools introduce students to the play “Julius Caesar” in both Georgetown and Horry counties. “It’s a really good tie-in this year,” Gates said.

Students at the Georgetown School of Arts and Sciences are preparing to perform scenes from Shakespeare’s plays as a means to promote the event. Lochlyn Hejl, a junior and daughter of Andrea and Logan Hejl of the Litchfield Country Club area, is performing the role of Juliet from “Romeo and Juliet.”

She’s studying British literature and will soon begin the Shakespeare section. “Getting to see the plays performed is great,” she said. “When we had ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ last year, it was good after reading it to see it performed the way Shakespeare meant it to be.”

Hejl said she studied “Henry V” her freshman year. “The themes of Shakespeare are universal,” she said. “They transcend time. The language is really beautiful.”

The American Shakespeare Center invites some members of the audience on stage, just as troupes did at The Globe in London. Reviewer Andrew White from Broadway World said the show is a lot of fun. Who knew?

“Now, if you’re not familiar with ASC’s approach to Shakespeare’s plays you can always leaf through the program, click on their homepage and read all about the ‘Original Staging Conditions’ back in Queen Elizabeth’s day,” White said. “What these nerdy notes don’t tell you is that ASC doesn’t do this to be academically, historically (yawn, stretch) correct: they do it because it’s a fantastic way to do theater. That the actors routinely interact, mingle, and move through the audience only heightens the fun.

“That Shakespeare intended his actors to work in full light, and to work the audience as they pleased, is a given; ASC has proven that this not only works, it’s probably the best way to appreciate the Bard’s genius.”

White said the costumes evoke bygone days while adding contemporary touches that make the characters seem to come alive in the present day’s world. “Jennifer C. Bronsted gives us a touch of biker chic along with the skirts, armor and waistcoats in Henry V, and Jenny McNee gives us some truly elegant Renaissance wear for Caesar.”

Running time: “Julius Caesar,” 2 hours 15 minutes with one intermission;

Tickets to the 7 p.m. Feb. 6 performance of “Henry V” are $35 and available by calling 843-520-4359 or online at thegeorgetownschool.org.

The Monday performance of “Julius Caesar” for students is sold out.

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