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Courtesy | Wiki­commons

“Med­icine, law, business, engi­neering: these are noble pur­suits and nec­essary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.”

In the 1989 drama film “Dead Poets Society,” English teacher John Keating, played by Robin Williams, pro­claims these words to his stu­dents while encour­aging them to find inspi­ration through the eyes of poetry. 

Now, Hillsdale stu­dents have started a club so their “bar­baric yawps” can be heard all over campus. 

The group joins artistic and lit­erary pur­suits in explo­ration of the highest virtues Hillsdale preaches. It is for­mally known as the “Shake­speare Society.” 

Their mission is to gather, teach, and enjoy the Bard’s most influ­ential works. 

“It’s always been a very casual club,” co-pres­ident Sienna Clement said. “Over the course of 15 to 20 years, it’s become more official, but it has this ethos of being amateur people who just really love Shake­speare, admire lan­guage, and are just par­tic­i­pating.” 

The club meets weekly to read Shake­speare plays and in the spring, the society sponsors “Shake­speare in the Arb,” an annual play per­formed, directed, and facil­i­tated entirely by stu­dents. 

“The club started out as a stage reading society,” co-pres­ident Amelia Ras­musen said. “They would hold a big stage reading, and it grad­ually mutated into a society that puts on one pro­duction a year.”

This semester, the club will perform their ren­dition of “A Winter’s Tale,” set between the 1950s and ’70s. As the director, Ras­musen has the job of taking amateur stu­dents and giving them an outlet to express their love of Shake­speare. 

“We’re setting the first half of the play in the ’50s, because it’s set in Sicilia which is a place with a very strict hier­archy,” Ras­musen said. “The play includes a man accusing a woman of adultery and her having no power because of the patri­archy. The second half is set in the 60s and 70s which is a very hippie, free loving, less hier­ar­chical time.”

The play will be per­formed on April 25 in the Slayton Arboretum. Stu­dents said they are eagerly preparing and excited by the prospect of putting their own spin on a classic. 

“There’s some­thing very grass­roots about it,” Clement said. “We have very low budget cos­tumes, but it’s exciting to perform Shake­speare in a way that feels kind of folksy and informal.”

The society gives stu­dents a chance to speak the great poet’s words out loud — an enter­taining and intel­lec­tually stim­u­lating activity. 

“It’s pretty simple,” Ras­musen said. “We just want to read Shake­speare.” 

Stu­dents from all back­grounds join together in their love of Shake­speare and many even develop an interest in theatre as a whole through the annual per­for­mance. 

“We have several English and theatre majors par­tic­i­pating this year,” Clement said. “There’s quite a few theatre people who became theatre people through the Shake­speare society.”

Though Shakespeare’s genius is uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized, the Society’s spe­cific and intense readings give stu­dents the chance to grow in their love and under­standing of the poet. Through readings and per­for­mances, stu­dents find enhanced inspi­ration to grow in their love of clas­sical lit­er­ature. 

“Shake­speare gives you a structure,” Clement said. “There’s a rhythm that carries you through whatever you’re saying, and he has a mul­ti­colored sort of way that cap­tures so many dif­ferent aspects of life.”

The club has a large base on campus. 

“We have about 20 people in the cast this year,” Clement said. “We had a really good turnout for the reading club last semester.”

With numbers increasing and interest growing, the Shake­speare Society shows no sign of slowing down. The club will con­tinue to put on per­for­mances in the spring, and they hope to inspire others with their admi­ration for Shake­speare. 

To study Shakespeare’s poetry is to study the important things in life — beauty, romance, and love. The Shake­speare Society offers stu­dents a place to enjoy lit­er­ature and cama­raderie while finding inspi­ration in the beauty of the poet’s timeless words. 

All stu­dents are welcome to join the Shake­speare Society to partake in the eternal word of Shake­speare, and the society wel­comes everyone to enjoy their per­for­mance in the Arb in April.