Shakespeare's First Play Challenges Undergraduates

Shakespeare's First Play Challenges Undergraduates

Jan 26 2016

Undergraduate students tackle the complex comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona

by Logan Beck

Temple Theaters will be transporting audiences to Verona and Milan with what is to be considered Shakespeare’s first comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by James J. Christy, running Wednesday, February 3 - Sunday, February 14 in Tomlinson Theater.

The play follows the story of young Valentine, as he ventures to Milan to find his fortune, but finds himself falling for Sylvia, the daughter of the Duke. To his dismay, his best friend Proteus has also fallen for Sylvia and left his love Julia to pursue her.

Paul Harrold, a freshman theatre major, plays the role of the lovelorn Valentine. According to Harrold, an acting contrentration, the biggest challenge of this production is mastering the technique involved in performing Shakespeare.

“I have never performed Shakespeare before, nor have I had prior training in the technique, so I have been learning throughout the rehearsal process,” Harrold said. “It's been challenging, but really fun. The greatest rewards are those moments in scenes when you are so connected to your character and your partner that you make sudden discoveries in the scene; breaking new ground and really feeling it. These moments are part of why I act.”

Sophomore Katie Horner, who portrays the jilted Julia, has thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with the other actors and director Christy.

“I could write you a twenty­ page, in­-depth analysis of what I have learned from my fellow castmates,” Horner said. “It has been absolutely fascinating and more fun than should be legal to work with this team of actors.”

In addition to working with the team of graduate and undergraduate actors alike, Horner has also enjoyed bringing her character Julia to life.

“The greatest reward has been giving a voice to women like Julia,” Horner said. “Upon talking with friends, family, and strangers alike about the show, I’ve met so many women who can relate to Julia’s situation–women who are not models or movie stars and don’t want to be, who defy society’s expectations in order to get what they want, and whose nature is to love and remain constant despite infidelity or heartbreak. Women such as this don’t often get to see their story told and it has already been so rewarding to get to listen to them. I only hope I can do them justice.”

Jackie Leibowitz, a senior ensemble member, is experiencing being part of the cast of a mainstage production for the first time, having work backstage on a number of productions. 

“Since this is my first time being part of a mainstage show from the acting standpoint, I'm just trying to take it all in and enjoy it as best as I can,” Leibowitz said.

Leibowitz is thankful for the opportunity to perform in Tomlinson Theater and feels that getting accustomed to Shakespearean text has been a huge learning experience.

“'I’ve been surprised at how much I connect to this piece and how much I could fall in love with it,” Leibowitz said. “I've become more comfortable with Shakespeare in acting classes over the last two years, but this is my first time performing in one of his plays. Being in this show to begin with is a challenge and reward in and of itself and I'm incredibly thankful that Jim, our fearless director, trusted me to be a part of this company.”

Director James J. Christy, Villanova University professor and local director, has helmed twenty-two Shakespeare plays in his decades of directing, many at Shakespeare festivals across the country.

This will be Christy’s first time directing The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which he explains offers a “new level of difficulty.”

”It’s a comedy, sometimes a broad comedy sometimes a light ironic comedy, but it’s also a somewhat dark vision of guy-guy rivalry,” Christy said.

Christy said that working with the large pool of undergraduate talent at Temple has been “enormous amounts of fun.”

“Younger people, when they’re in school and learning, and even some of the older graduate students, are very disposed to taking risks to trying things out, to stretch themselves out, and try things you want them to do,” Christy said.

Harrold is anxious to show audiences the intricacies involved with Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

“I really look forward to showing people a unique and exciting interpretation of this play,” Harrold said. “The world that we are creating for this play to exist in is going to be mesmerizing. I think people are going to be absorbed into this vast, evocative, stylish world and it will make the story all the more fresh.”

Tickets to the show are available online or from the Temple Theaters Box Office

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