Dramatizing the Human Experience Class Attends Shakespeare Conference

On November 11, 15 Poly seniors attended the morning panel discussion of the Huntington Library’s conference “Shakespeare in 2050” as part of their AP English Literature class, “Dramatizing the Human Experience,” with their teacher, Marge Kenny. Discussing the continued relevance of Shakespeare in both performance and academic studies, the morning’s panelists included three distinguished artistic directors: Carl Cofield of the Classical Theatre of Harlem, Erica Whyman of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Barry Edelstein of the Old Globe of San Diego. The dialogue was moderated by Professor Ian Smith of Lafayette University, who is also the Vice President of the American Shakespeare Association and the Huntington’s current Los Angeles Times Distinguished Fellow. 

Attending the conference gave students the opportunity to hear current theatre professionals and university professors share their ideas about how the Bard’s works still speak to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Inspired by the panelists, Eliana L-V ’23 commented, “Seeing how higher education and professional research are conducted using the literature we read in class brought my learning to a whole new level,” and classmate Emily W. ’23 added, “I appreciated that Professor Cofield talked about making Shakespeare unique and putting our own unique perspective on the text. I found this to be insightful because it can be applied not only to Shakespeare but also to other academic or personal aspects of life.”
The conference also focused discussion on how new visions of Shakespeare’s plays and characters can be used to expand the diversity of theatre and to build equity and inclusion within communities. Willa J. ’23 noted, “The panelists emphasized that Shakespeare can and should be available to everyone,” through both modern interpretations of the stories and wider access to performances through community outreach. These ideas strengthened Ben P. ’23 realization of “the power of art as a unifying medium” as the speakers reminded students of the essential roles that the arts and humanities play in fostering a truly democratic society by supporting dialogue, engagement, and understanding between people. 

Lorenzo B. ’23 reflected, “It was incredible to hear from Shakespeare experts about how they have seen their field evolve and shift throughout their careers. The experience definitely allowed me to see even more of Shakespeare's future applications and how Shakespeare can be used to build a better society.”