Shakespeare and Love

The British are coming — to John Carroll!

And they're performing Shakespeare, like no one but the Brits can.

The Shakespearean troupe Actors from the London Stage was founded in the early 1970s and includes Patrick Stewart ("Star Trek: The Next Generation," "X-Men") as one of its original directors. This month, AFTLS will conduct acting workshops with all levels of JCU English students. In addition, the five-member troupe will stage a public performance of "Othello."

Chris Roark, JCU English department chair, spoke with Cleveland Heights playwright David Hansen about why the troupe was invited to perform a full-length version of Shakespeare's tragic tale of jealousy in Venice.

DH: What relevance does "Othello" have for your students?

CR: I find it one of the easiest plays for me to teach: an intense experience of jealousy and of competition between men, and of women who are trying to work their place out in a culture that is fundamentally hostile to women. There are the racial implications; though, I think, at least in American culture, those things are more resolved.

DH: What do you hope your students get out of the workshops?

CR: The minute you throw Shakespeare into a classroom you immediately erect an intellectual distance to what you are doing. We're hoping something that happens with this troupe may set off more considered thought or responses. The more different approaches you get to Shakespeare, the better. We want it to be different; we want it to be fun.

DH: Do the English perform Shakespeare better than Americans?

CR: Yes. I think the English own it; it's their culture. When a British actor gets onstage to do "Hamlet," they've probably seen 25 Hamlets already onstage, and they've been reading it since they were 12 years old. American actors are schooled in terms of movies. They're more used to pauses and visual images than working the language.

Actors from the London Stage will perform on Saturday, Feb. 19 at JCU's Kulas Auditorium. Tickets are $5. Call (216) 397-4221 or e-mail for more information.

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