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Opera Workshop celebrates Shakespeare’s canon

Opera Workshop celebrates Shakespeare’s canon

By Julia Waldow

Although students, professors and scholars widely celebrate William Shakespeare’s rhyme schemes and vocabulary, the playwright’s contributions to the musical world have not gone unnoticed.

In celebration of Shakespeare’s works, students from the Kenyon College Opera and Musical Theater Workshop will perform What Fools These Mortals Be on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. in Brandi Recital Hall.

“It’s interesting how many people connect with Shakespeare, how many famous musicians were inspired to write music based off his plays and how one play can inspire such different music, especially ナ pop operas compared to classical operas,” Mary Sturgis ’16 said.

According to Adjunct Instructor of Voice Jennifer Marcellana, the performance lacks a consistent storyline. Rather, the presentation contains a motley array of scenes taken from different shows and operas that were inspired by Shakespeare, such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Kiss Me Kate and All Shook Up.

“You’re not staying in the same character the entire show, like you would in a musical or opera,” Conor Dugan ’15 said. “You do switch. You have to be able to get in the correct state of mind for a particular scene and put away whatever you were in the scene before.”

Marcellana, who took the workshop class while a student at Kenyon, took over the role as teacher; she picked out the musical selections prior to course registration this August.

Once she found out who was enrolled in the class and what type of voices they had, she could properly assign parts for the production.

“If I have a scene that has certain voice types, like a baritone and a tenor and a soprano, I have to see if those people audition for the class,” Marcellana said. “So after I figure out who’s in the class, then I can look at the music that I pick out and see what would work based off of whom we’ve got.”

The students, who take part in more than one scene, must deal with the challenges of singing multiple songs in various styles.

“Every so often you end up with something a little out of your range,” Dugan said. “In a way, it’s probably a good thing because [Marcellana] is stretching our ranges by making us sing things we may not be comfortable singing.”

Singing a variety of songs is not the only challenge the performers face. The opera workshop students must additionally practice acting and singing opera at the same time in order to properly portray a certain scene.

“For me, acting is an extension of singing,” Sturgis said. “They are totally intertwined ナ I think that music has an amazing power to change our mood, and so if you can connect with that music, your acting is going to be better, and if you act well, your singing will sound better.”

The workshop, known colloquially to participants as “op-shop,” meets twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.

First, students learn their songs and then work on the performance aspect. Some participants, such as Sturgis, also stage scenes, while Marcellana directs the rest.

“Usually, when I stage something, it changes by the time we’re done with it,” Marcellana said. “The students will have ideas, or I’ll have an idea that doesn’t work and we’ll try something else. So it sort of ends up being a collaboration, no matter what.”

Since participants come in for certain periods of time depending on the call schedule, they do not get to see everyone’s scenes until tech week.

“It’s the first chance for us to see the entire show together and hear everyone’s pieces,” Sturgis said. “For the first part of tech week, we’re running the scenes in order without stopping. As tech week moves on, we’re trying to run the show flawlessly. So during the breaks in between scenes, our emcees come out and explain the scenes that are going to come next. We’re in costume, and we are doing our backstage jobs.”

Even though students do not see the entire show until tech week, the group maintains a solid dynamic throughout the process, according to Sturgis.

“There is this sense of community,” she said. “We all have to work as a team to get this show up, even though we’re all doing separate components. It’s like building a Lego structure. We all have to build it up together to make it work.”

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