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Shakespeare brings crowd to its feet

March 22, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Anyone listening to the laughter coming from Thomson Chapel probably would not have guessed that the large crowd of students and adults was reading lines of iambic pentameter written centuries ago.

Following a performance of "Two Gentlemen of Verona," Chris Seiler, who portrayed Panthino and The Duke in the play, and Vanessa Mandeville Morosco, who played Silvia, made the bard come alive in an hour-long workshop at Wilson College Sunday afternoon called "Shakespeare on Your Feet."

Both actors are with the Shenandoah Shakespeare Co. of Staunton, Va.

Seiler shared "what we have to do to make Shakespeare make sense to ourselves and the audience."

"We take the text off the page and breathe life into it with the voice, body and imagination," Morosco added. "We paraphrase as we are learning our lines. Our job is to make choices about each line. Which word is the most important?"

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"Theater is meant to be seen, not read," Seiler said. "But different interpretations are put on different lines by different actors."

William Shakespeare repeated the pattern of iambic pentameter, which has 10 syllables per line, with every other one stressed, over and over, Morosco said.

"It's like the heartbeat of the character," she said.

Seiler had the audience form a large circle, and gave each participant a line of Shakespeare from different plays.

"Make eye contact to either spew or plead your line," he instructed. "Don't tell us which it is, make us know which it is."

He then broke the group into small sections and gave participants two minutes to make a scene using only these lines, with creative and hilarious results.

Morosco is in her second year-long tour with Shenandoah Shakespeare. The troupe rehearses for three months and performs for nine months, she said.

"Two Gentlemen of Verona" is not one of the most popular of the bard's plays, probably because the ending is difficult for modern audiences and the play requires a dog, Morosco said.

"It's a cool play to see done," Seiler added. "It was one of his first plays and you can see elements he dabbled with here that come up in later plays, such as a girl dressing as a guy."

Seiler was impressed by workshop participants.

"When they were reading lines, it sounded like some were actors," he said.

Diane Meketa of Mercersburg, Pa., brought her parents, daughter, son and a friend's children to the performance and the workshop.

"Every year we get the Performing Arts series tickets, and Shakespeare is our favorite," she said.

Her daughter, Gabrielle Sanfilippo, 14, said she loved the play.

"It's one of the easier plays to understand," she said. "I like the characters, I like their personalities."

Her friends, Evie Long, 11, and Abby Long, 14, who, like Gabrielle, are home-schooled, also enjoyed "Two Gentlemen of Verona," in part because they were among the audience members who sat on the stage while the performance went on in front of them.

"The play was really funny," Evie Long said. "It was my first time (sitting) on the stage. I was able to experience more of the play, I felt like I was really in it."

Abby Long said she liked the Shenandoah production because "they add music, and it's simpler, not as many props." She added that she has read almost all of Shakespeare's plays in paraphrase.

Abby and Evie are the daughters of Steve and Kathy Long of Waynesboro, Pa.

The "Shakespeare on Your Feet" workshop was sponsored by Chambersburg's Council for the Arts.

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