This week, we find two groups pairing their Shakespeare production rehearsals with the added challenge of a language barrier:
Since 1966, students at Konan Women’s University in Kobe, Japan have rehearsed and performed Shakespeare productions in English. They began with As You Like It nearly fifty years ago and are currently rehearsing Macbeth for an April opening.
According to The Japanese Times, local universities in the 1960s experimented with shōgekijyō, or small independent drama groups, which explored the imagination and accessibility of their productions. Through their struggles and triumphs year after year while tackling Shakespeare’s language and works, the ensemble at Konan Women’s University have not only come to a new, communally investigated understanding of Shakespeare, but also a lasting tradition of theatrical work.
Iyori Nakaoka, the student director for Macbeth, notes that she initially found Shakespeare to be “impenetrable” but has since worked through the rehearsal process to discover her own personal interpretation of the tragedy.
Meanwhile, students at Louisiana State University recently performed “Béatrice et Bénédict,” a French “opéra comique,” which retells the story of Much Ado About Nothing.
From the website:
‘Near the end of his colorful and creative life, [Hector] Berlioz returned to opera and to his two favorite writers – Virgil and Shakespeare. Following the monumental Les Troyens, he chose to create a lighter (and far wittier) opéra-comique from one of the Bard’s most appealing comedies, Much Ado About Nothing. Focusing primarily on the play’s two leading characters, with their sharp-tongued jousting and protests of love, the always-clever Frenchman fashioned his most charming stage work.’
The French tradition requires that the characters dialogue between various musical numbers. In this double-cast production, actors used the English language as adapted from Shakespeare’s play for the spoken scenes but sang in the original French.