On July 24th, at 7:30pm, the Summer Youth Shakespeare Ensemble was beginning its 5th performance, and there were no more seats available for a reason: the dedication and enthusiasm were palpable and contagious. The group, which embraced students from different grades, interpreted Two Gentlemen of Verona, a play by Shakespeare, in a very creative and innovative way. The director, Amy Waguespack, warned the spectators of their involvement, from the posters to the set, they’ve lent themselves to the whole creative process of the play. Exploring different qualities of theatre together with a global and dynamic culture resulted in a play that didn’t simply read Shakespeare, but re-wrote it.  The music being played by an ipod, the girl with a camera following the characters, Launce’s iphone, and the film projections were some of the elements that added a contemporary ambiance.  Although most of the original lines and language were used, the contrast it created between those and the outfits and setting gave a fresh aura to Shakespeare.

                The duality of the script, which privileges dialogues between two characters, was treated in a picturesque manner by the young group. The main themes, namely friendship versus love, pinning love versus romantic love, and reason versus love, were made into a visual feature. The actors used two entrances; the right hand side was Julia’s, and the left hand side was Silvia’s; the middle embraced both the tension between the extremities and the final resolution. The scenario and the dynamics of the play built the tension between the themes through the contrasting colors on the stage and the outfits, the repeating spots scenes alluding to specific topics took place, and the division of the stage in two separate platforms. This created a pattern for the themes that gave freedom to the performance to add insights of personality traits.

The cast was organized in a way each character had echoes of its own desires, thoughts and whims reflected by the accompanying crews. Valentine’s colors were lighter, and he wore read paints that mingled with the red floor, whereas Proteus, all in black, didn’t seem to belong anywhere. When Julia dresses as Sebastian, her outfit matches those of Proteus’ followers. Silvia had a high positioned chamber, and looked very secure and comfortable in her flat shoes. On the other hand, Julia had a hard time with her extremely high heel shoes and her outfit was somewhere between chique and misfashioned. These details created a depth to the plot, sketching Valentine as a down to earth, just and honorable man; Silvia as a court lady, elegant and stand-offish; Proteus as inconstant and somewhat rebel; and, finally, Julia as an instable and passionate woman. The first couple was a picture of love, the second, of passion.

The switching between performance and video also contributed to this construction of layers. While the video addressed an almost blunt reading of the script, its addition as an interactive media allowed new meanings and dialogues with the English culture of the 21st century to be raised. Along with that, the talent show and the final musical performance with the whole cast added an American flavor. This collage of influences and values is of the utmost importance to reading literary works, what turns texts into works of art is the constant dialogue with readers. The Summer Youth Shakespeare Ensemble went further and rewrote it; in doing so, they created a new story, a new source of inspiration.

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