Tag Archives: Shakespeare

Dead Shakespeare Society Reading Friday

Three years ago, a small group of undergraduates banded together with me to adapt and reduce Shakespeare’s Macbeth for a performance in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death (April 23, 1616). We joined students from the Spanish Department and Professor Stephen Hesselm as it was also the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’s death. They translated a Cervantes play for their portion of the evening; my group produced a dramatic reading, complete with audience participation, to a lovely crowd at the Kennedy Public Library. The event was a success and several of my students decided this should become an annual event. We dubbed ourselves the Dead Shakespeare Society, and this week we are preparing for our third-annual dramatic reading.

The group has expanded to include undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni from various Ball State departments. Each year, a devoted crew works tirelessly to reduce our chosen Shakespeare play to an hour or less. The actors, with the exception of a few lead roles, take on multiple characters. This year, we once again join forces with the Spanish Department to present a night of Renaissance drama titled “Calderón & Shakespeare: Dreams & Nightmares.” The Spanish Department undergraduates are presenting their translation of Pedro Calderón’s La vida es sueno/Life is a dream (1635) and the Dead Shakespeare Society will be reading our reduced version of Richard III. Together we will serve up dramas that ask you to reflect on power structures, history, propaganda, fitness to rule, and fake news—the stuff of dreams and nightmares! The performances will be held from 5-7 p.m. this Friday at the Kennedy Public Library. All ages are welcome.

–Dr. Vanessa Rapatz

The spark of recognition: a new faculty profile of Vanessa Rapatz

This week, we bring you another installment of our new faculty profile series. Be sure to check out past profiles, which include but are not limited to Silas Hansen, Lupe Linares, Laura Romano, and Molly Ferguson.

Give a warm welcome to Vanessa Rapatz.

Photo provided by Vanessa Rapatz

Photo provided by Vanessa Rapatz

Vanessa grew up in Minnesota, but has spent the last sixteen years living, studying, and working in California. She received her MA in Literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and her Ph.D from the University of California at Davis, where she has served for the past several years as a lecturer teaching classes in Early British literature, topics in drama, and composition. Vanessa is thrilled to return to the Midwest.

At Ball State, she will be teaching courses in Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, gender and performance studies.

How did you get interested in performance studies?

My interest in convents and novices in early modern drama grew out of a combination of taking a graduate seminar at UC Davis and TAing for a Shakespeare course. I started to notice a pattern in which young women were entering and exiting convents frequently in these plays and I began to wonder how that might have resonated on an English stage during a time in England’s history where convents and Catholicism were outlawed. This early question led me to start researching nuns and convents and ultimately involved a trip to England where I was a resident at the Globe Theater and made a side research trip to York where I stayed at Bar Convent, the first convent in England after they were banned in the Renaissance. My London research reinforced my interest in performance and in convent buildings themselves, specifically their remains whether in the form of ruins or re-purposed buildings.

Photo provided by Vanessa Rapatz

Photo provided by Vanessa Rapatz

How would you describe yourself as a teacher?

I think I’m an engaging and enthusiastic teacher.

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Springtime on the Thames: What Prof. Elizabeth Dalton is Reading

Elizabeth Dalton

On Kindle: John Keats, Anna Quindlen, Monica Ali, William Shakespeare, and Dava Sobel. In my book bag: Anthony Burgess, Helene Hanff, and Virginia Woolf. On the coffee table: Zadie Smith.

What am I reading? Why London, of course.

This May, a group of Honors students will accompany Dr. James Ruebel and me to Rome and London as part of a field study colloquium wrapping up our Honors Humanities sequence, a series of Honors classes devoted to the study of Western literature, philosophy, and art. Rome and London, two key cities in the narrative of Western Civilization, are connected by way of the ancient Romans themselves, whose infrastructure—including the ruins of old walls—can still be seen in London today.

There are too many literary connections to name, but our focus settled on English poet John Keats, who spent his last months in Rome attempting to recover from tuberculosis. In ­ABBA ABBA, Anthony Burgess (English author of A Clockwork Orange) reimagines these last days as a meeting of the minds between the dying Keats and a famous, conflicted Roman poet, Giuseppe Gioachino Belli. The two poets are initially at odds, but philosophically united by the universal beauty of the sonnet form and its ability to accommodate a variety of languages and subject matter. The end of the book was no surprise to me, but Burgess’s language-play and ruminations on the purpose of art and poetry made me long to see Keats’s Spanish Steps and visit Belli’s statue in the Trastevere. And in London, a visit to Keats’s Hampstead residence will be in order.

During Christmas break, I spent a snowy day reading Anna Quindlen’s Imagined London: A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City. In this literary travel guide, the author traces her fascination with the city through some of her favorite literature. In this brief overview of the city’s most popular literature, she mentions some of the other texts I am reading this semester, including Mrs. Dalloway, one of my all-time favorite books. In this quintessential London novel, Virginia Woolf trains the readers’ gaze on her characters as their paths intersect in the London streets and parks on a beautiful June day. Thrumming underneath their feet is all of London’s ancient past, and permeating the air they breathe is the far-reaching stench of the recently concluded World War I. In May, some of my students and I will retrace some of  Clarissa’s footsteps along Bond Street, and reenact Elizabeth Dalloway’s exhilarating bus ride to the Strand.

A London matron of more recent vintage is Nazneen, main character of Monica Ali’s popular and controversial novel, Brick Lane. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2003, this novel traces the self-initiated emancipation of a Bangladeshi woman who finds herself on the banks of the Thames, married to a Bangladeshi man twice her age.   An uneducated village girl, Nazneen is out of her element and unable to speak English, but uses her native resourcefulness to guide her family through the tense months leading to and following September 11, 2001.

A more pleasant London-American connection is the true story of Helene Hanff, an American writer whose fascination with rare old books led her to a twenty-year correspondence with a London used book dealer named Frank Doel (whom she sometimes calls “Frankie”). Collected in the book, 84 Charing Cross Road, the letters document an increasingly warm and personal relationship between book lovers on separate continents. Far more engaging than the awkward 1987 film starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, the letters are full of personality. “WHAT KIND OF BLACK PROTESTANT BIBLE IS THIS?” Hanff demands upon receiving a requested copy of the Anglican New Testament in Latin. “Kindly inform the Church of England they have loused up the most beautiful prose ever written, whoever told them to tinker with the Vulgate Latin? They’ll burn for it, mark my words.” Doel responds with characteristic British calm and continues to provoke Hanff’s delight and feigned exasperation with his literary finds. Marks & Co. has long since closed, but we will stroll past the old store front anyhow, and pop into a few other used bookstores on Charing Cross Road.

Other texts I’ll be getting to this semester include Dava Sobel’s Longitude, an account of John Harrison’s quest to solve the longitude problem in the early 18th century. We’ll see some of his famous clocks as well as the International Dateline when we cruise down the Thames to Greenwich. And what trip to London would be complete without a visit to the Globe Theatre? We haven’t yet settled on a play, but an hour or two of the flight across the pond will be devoted to reading one of the Bard’s comedies.

After our return to the States? Current luggage restrictions may limit our souvenir shopping while we’re overseas, but I can always revisit London through E.M. Forster, W. M. Thackeray, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Fay Weldon, Zadie Smith, and Nick Hornby.

—Elizabeth Dalton, English Instructor