Shakespeare festival provides behind the scenes look for student thespians

Members of student theater organization Cothurnus spent their fall break weekend exploring classical drama in a new way at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Cothurnus serves as an outlet for those interested in theater and is meant to give students who aren't necessarily immersed in theater the outlets and opportunities to participate.

Cothurnus has traveled to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival every fall break for nearly a decade, according to President senior Luke Martin. Cothurnus Treasurer junior Devon Gawley planned this year's trip that 35 students attended.

Students who went to Stratford experienced large-scale plays performed by the best talent in Canada. The itinerary included Noel Coward's “Blithe Spirit,” Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's “Fiddler on the Roof” and William Shakespeare's “The Merchant of Venice.”

“Seeing good theater is always inspiring,” Martin said. “When you see it put on in such a professional aspect, where they have a lot of money … that's very inspiring - to be excited to propel yourself into that, post-grad.”

In addition to the usual play, musical and Shakespeare drama, the trip also included one of several tours offered at the festival. This year, the group toured the festival's costume warehouse, which is one of the largest of its kind in North America.

“[The tour] put into perspective a lot of things that are going on behind the scenes, and how many people and how many different outlets there actually are to work in theater,” Martin said. “You can be an expert in making props look very real. You can be an expert in lighting.”

Next year's students will be touring the festival theater instead of the costume shop. They will explore the workings backstage and learn about what goes on there during a show.

The Cothurnus students also attended a talkback with festival actress Michelle Giroux, who played Elvira in “Blithe Spirit” and Portia in “The Merchant of Venice.” At the talkback, the actor shared her experiences in how she made it as far as Stratford, including her prior work and the schooling she went through.

“If you're entering almost any of the arts after graduating, you kind of have this feeling, 'I have no idea what I'm getting myself into,'” Martin said. “It's nice to talk to people who have been in that spot and see that they've ended up successful.”