Many students view Shakespeare’s works as antiquated ramblings far removed from contemporary life. It becomes difficult to appreciate his work when forced to analyze his complex words and make sense of centuries-old speech in stuffy classrooms.
Maryland Shakespeare Players aims to change the narrative about Shakespeare with contemporary twists on these classic texts.
Liam O’Donoghue, a senior mechanical engineering major, is the president of Maryland Shakespeare Players. O’Donoghue has been a part of the club since his freshman year and helped develop the group into what it is today.
“The way that we work with a text to try and make it more relevant to modern audiences and even … elevate the themes of the show, is by incorporating a twist on it,” O’Donoghue said.
The troupe performed a version of Romeo and Juliet inspired by Twilight last semester. What started as a joke evolved into an artistic vision. The vampire Capulets feuded with the werewolf Montagues in a captivating version of the classic tale.
This semester, they will perform a post-apocalyptic version of Hamlet. This twist was the brainchild of senior economics major Logan Delavan-Hoover, who is the piece’s director.
“There’s a constant fog of war, there’s a constant dread of a sudden death or some loss of everything,” Delavan-Hoover said. “So I thought, let’s take Hamlet’s internal world and turn it into his external world as well.”
The post-apocalyptic spin’s intention is to play on Hamlet’s themes of deep despair and uncertainty of the surrounding world. Everything he has known and loved has fallen apart, and the play follows the aftermath of his universe collapsing.
Delavan-Hoover said the club is truly a collaborative effort from show selection to actor direction and all the way through the performance. Ideas from all members are not only welcomed, but encouraged.
That environment has fostered unbreakable bonds among members of the club. Many people involved in the troupe shared that the community makes them feel at home.
“Everyone really cares about making a great show, but the community that we create comes before any product that we make,” Alana Isaac, a junior government and politics and theatre major who is also co-stage manager for Hamlet, said. “This club has really given me a family when I’ve needed it.”
Countless hours have been put into the main show, but the Maryland Shakespeare Players also puts on a show called The Review once a semester that is a collection of Shakespearian scenes.
The club also works to make Shakespeare less inaccessible than people believe.
“When you engage with it like it’s a sacred text, you’re not able to engage with it as an expression of your own thoughts and your own experience,” Delavan-Hoover said.
Putting Shakespeare in contemporary context is the club’s goal, but its members’ drive and creativity is what sustains the club and keeps members coming back year after year, O’Donoghue said.
Hamlet will open on Dec. 8. in Stamp Student Union’s Jimenez Room. The show will include intense fighting, dramatic deaths, and a real human skull prop.