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Elena Creed | Col­legian

The lights dimmed, and the rustling theater-goers quieted in antic­i­pation. That moment — between reality and the story — pre­pared the audience for a journey, either of laughter or tears, of enter­tainment or catharsis.

Fourteen Hillsdale stu­dents had the oppor­tunity to witness the lights rising on six pro­fes­sionally pro­duced plays this past week at the inter­na­tionally renowned Stratford Shake­speare Fes­tival in Ontario, Canada.

Theater department chairman James Brandon described the fes­tival as “the nest clas­sical theater in North America” and a “gem” worth seeing.

The stu­dents, five alumni, and seven faculty members traveled to Stratford for four days for the annual trip to the fes­tival. Of the faculty members, only three were theater pro­fessors; members of the phi­losophy, Spanish, and English depart­ments joined as well.They saw six plays: some Shake­speare, a Greek tragedy, a musical, and an absurdist work, among others.

As well as learning from the shows they saw, stu­dents were able to expe­rience the quaint small-town feel of the city of Stratford, walk in the Shake­speare Gardens, and enjoy the city’s theater culture.

Hillsdale stu­dents have the oppor­tunity to see these shows at a dis­counted student rate.

On this trip, they saw “Timon of Athens” and “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shake­speare, a dark English Renais­sance play by Thomas Mid­dleton, a twen­tieth century French absurdist comedy, and “Tartuffe” by Moliere, the renowned sev­en­teenth century French play­wright. For the sixth show, stu­dents could choose between “The Bakkhai” by Euripides and “Guys and Dolls” by Frank Loesser.

Senior Nikolai Dignoti described “The Bakkhai” as the “most tech­ni­cally excellent play” he saw in Stratford.

Set in Thebes, the play centers around Dionysos, god of wine and fer­tility, and the women he entraps into frenzied worship in his mystic cult. When mortals like King Pentheus chal­lenge Dio- nysos’s godship, a ter­rible fate befalls him.

Dignoti, Catherine Coffey ’16, and junior Jessica Mac­Farlane said they were enchanted by actor Mac Fyfe’s per­for­mance as Dionysos.

“He was the most well-trained actor I have ever seen,” Mac­Farlane said. “Not a finger was ever out of place.”

Those who chose the musical “Guys and Dolls” over the Greek tragedy also expe­ri­enced a mas­ter­piece. Stu­dents wit­nessed show-stopping chore­og­raphy, phe­nomenal cos­tumes, mag­nif­icent sets, and, of course, top-notch acting.

Senior Glynis Gilio, who also attended the fes­tival last year, said the Stratford musicals were “better than Broadway.”

The trip, as a whole, com­ple­mented the theater classes she had taken at the college, she said.

“We under­stand that theater was meant to be seen, not read,” Gilio said, “so we get to expe­rience the shows we read as they should be expe­ri­enced.”