New Swan Festival brings wit and delight
Zachary Huston as Mercutio at the New Swan Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Paul Kennedy
“Watching Romeo and Juliet being performed on stage for the first time was one of the most amazing experiences I had this summer because I felt so close to it. The fact that I knew what scene was coming next because we studied it in class made the experience even better.” These are the words of Binisha Kanjaria, a student in Julia Lupton’s summer Shakespeare course. Binisha and 35 other students attended the New Swan Shakespeare Festival, where they got to see the plays they studied in class performed live on a tiny Elizabethan-style stage. They also visited the New Swan for an afternoon workshop with MFA student Zach Houston, who delighted audiences with his rendition of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and Fabian in Twelfth Night.
Selling 5500 seats in six weeks of performances, this was the New Swan’s best season yet, thanks to the vision of artistic director Eli Simon and the enthusiasm of a growing body of campus and community supporters.
This year, Humanities sponsored a weekly free seminar series featuring speakers such as Dean Georges Van Den Abbeele (on Shakespeare and Machiavelli), Chair of English Martin Harries (on California’s open air theaters), and Chapman professor Kent Lehnhof (on twins in Twelfth Night).
The Langson Library chipped in by hosting noontime Shakespeare talks. After a lecture and discussion with Lupton, patrons got to see UCI’s rare copy of a Shakespeare First Folio, the 1623 landmark volume that ensured the survival of many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Twelfth Night. Visible from both Ring Road and Aldrich Park, the New Swan is located next to the Library, its setting a testament to the flow between art and scholarship at UCI.
This summer, the New Swan delivered an extraordinary burst of wit and wonder for students, faculty, staff, and community. In the words of Binisha, “Sitting as a groundling during the sword-fighting scenes was amazing. Mercutio/Fabian sang to me in the ending scene of Twelfth Night for a few seconds and I basically swooned.” With memories like those, Binisha will take a little bit of Shakespeare with her wherever she goes. That’s education, Humanities-style.
-Associate Dean for Research, Professor Julia R. Lupton
Photos courtesy of UCI Libraries