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Hillsdale students spent the weekend at the Stratford Theatre Festival | Courtesy
Hillsdale stu­dents spent the weekend at the Stratford Theatre Fes­tival | Courtesy

Four days, six plays. That was last weekend’s itin­erary for the 15 Hillsdale stu­dents who attended the Stratford Fes­tival in Ontario, Canada, the largest Shake­speare fes­tival in North America.

“It was a good chance for stu­dents to see top-notch pro­fes­sional theatre,” pro­fessor of theatre James Brandon said. This was at least his 10th time attending the inter­na­tionally renowned Stratford Fes­tival, which he said is the most high-quality theatre in driving dis­tance of Hillsdale.

The six plays were Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” “John Gabriel Borkman” by Henrik Ibsen, “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller, the musical “A Chorus Line,” and “Breath of Kings,” a two-part play that com­bines Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” “Henry IV part I,” “Henry IV part II,” and “Henry V.”

Senior theatre major Dani Morey said “Breath of Kings” was “seam­lessly bound together,” and offered an inter­esting com­parison of each king: The first half was per­formed one evening, and the second half the fol­lowing morning. Not only did this offer a glimpse into the reign of each king in quick suc­cession, Morey said, but it gave audience members a chance to ponder the first half over the night before diving into the second.

“It wasn’t like saying, ‘Oh yeah, I saw ‘Richard II’ a couple of years ago,’” Morey said. “You could clearly see the jux­ta­po­sition of leader roles and the dif­ference in lan­guage.”

Morey also said the per­for­mance of “As You Like It,” which was set in the 1980s and fea­tured extensive audience par­tic­i­pation, was “close to how Shake­speare would have wanted it per­formed. It was a party atmos­phere.”

Junior Rachel Watson said she enjoyed “A Chorus Line.” The show follows actors and actresses through an audition process, which hits home for those involved with theatre and dance on campus.

“It was inter­esting to see the pro­gression from drama to classic Shake­speare to comedy and to ‘A Chorus Line,’’ Watson said. “It kind of moved from the sim­plest to the most chore­o­graphed.”

Overall, Watson, a dancer, said the fes­tival was fan­tastic, although the intense weekend included a lot of theatre.

Hillsdale attends the fes­tival every fall, a tra­dition started before Brandon began teaching at Hillsdale. Brandon said the beau­tiful com­munity and small town feel of Stratford was par­tic­u­larly enjoyable. “The shows are very similar to the way we program shows here,” Brandon said.