COLA Connections Newsletter: Fall 2016

"Love's Fire" at RIT

On April 23rd, 2016, the world celebrated the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. RIT did not miss out on paying tribute to the legacy of the Bard, launching the RIT Celebrates Shakespeare performing arts series. This semester, the College and our Department of Performing Arts & Visual Culture will put out a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s sonnets. Love’s Fire is a series of seven one-act plays, each written by different playwrights, based on a different Shakespearean sonnet.

The director, new adjunct professor Andy Head, describes himself as “an actor first and a director second.” Andy says this allows him to think about every character’s point of view and how they all fit together. “Since the plays are inspired by sonnets, and since the sonnets are about love, they have to do with love. In most of the seven acts, it is some form of dysfunctional love, broken love, angry love or love that is seeking revenge. So we are seeing what is going wrong with love.” While the sonnets are timeless and often said to describe love today, the plays are set in modern conditions with complexities that are prevalent in today’s understanding of love. “It is a not a one-for-one translation of the sonnets to a modern text, it is more of the idea behind the sonnets. People who are fans of Shakespeare will definitely enjoy little Easter eggs, like lines from other works of Shakespeare that are hidden in the dialogue.”

Since RIT does not have a formal theatre program, the student actors come from various backgrounds and majors. While some have previous acting experience, several do not. Andy believes “in some ways, that is a cool thing because you’ve got people who are into engineering or astrophysics and are not performance majors. Often times theatre departments become insular and are like a bubble, but everyone here comes from such diverse backgrounds and it brings new perspectives and ideas.”  Yashashree Jadhav is a PhD student in astrophysics. She says, “Acting takes me completely into a different world than what my work is. As a PhD student in astrophysics, I look at everything but the Earth. Acting forces me to look at the Earth and what’s right around me. Having this opportunity gives me a chance to step out of my study time and take some time to enjoy literature and the arts. I really hope to see and participate in future productions.”

Another actor in Love’s Fire is RIT/NTID student Molly Parker, who says, “I am really happy that deaf performers have the opportunity to be involved in theatre productions. I have been involved in many since I came to RIT and I think it’s a good experience that Deaf students should be able to have in their college experience.” Although this is the director’s first experience working with a deaf actor, Andy believes it is a great way to integrate ASL into the storytelling. He says, “I knew that when casting Molly she would bring a lot of ideas and energy to the show. Because the plays are each different, she has four separate characters. So for example, in one scene she is signing in English word order and voicing. In another one, she is just doing ASL while another actor is voicing her lines. So we’re trying in different ways to incorporate her use of language.” Both performances of Loves Fire will have interpreters and are captioned so that they are accessible to all students.

Loves Fire opens on November 10th at the 1510 Lab theatre in NTID and is free to attend.