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'Shaking up Shakespeare' celebrates Bard's birthday

April 06, 2009

Can you believe he’s that old?

If he were alive today, William Shakespeare would be turning 445 years old.

And the fact that his work is still read and revered is, perhaps, more remarkable than his age.

To celebrate The Bard’s Birthday, ASU's Department of English will host “Shaking up Shakespeare,” a mélange of performances and discussions, April 23-24. This year’s focus considers the “non-traditional” in Shakespeare productions—from castings to spoken word performances to a contemporary hip hop adaptation by Phoenix’s Black Theatre Troupe.

The fest begins with “Shaking up Shakespeare – In Scenes” Thursday, April 23, from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. in the Durham Language and Literature building, room 316 on the Tempe campus.

“Shaking up Shakespeare—In Scenes” is a free event and contest hosted by the English Club @ ASU. Students will re-enact moments from their favorite Shakespeare plays, mixing-it-up with the non-traditional. Assistant professor of English, Cora Fox, and graduate student Valerie Fazel will join a special mystery judge to choose those worthy of prizes.

Also on Thursday, April 23, the Black Theatre Troupe will present “Revenge of a King” at 7:30 p.m. at Playhouse in the Park, 1850 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, with a special ticket price offered to the ASU community – $10. ASU Professor of English Bradley Ryner will lead a post-show discussion. For tickets, call 602-254-2151 and ask for the ASU rate.

“Shaking up Shakespeare” concludes with a free morning of discussion and performances from 8:15 a.m. to noon in the Lyceum Theatre on the Tempe campus. A continental breakfast will be served.

Panelists, including acclaimed actor Harry Lennix (“The Matrix” series; “Dollhouse,” “Barbershop” and “Titus”), David Hemphill (Executive Director of Black Theatre Troupe), Camilla Westenberg (professor of English and hip hop scholar, Phoenix College), and associate professor Ayanna Thompson (ASU), will participate in a rousing discussion about Shakespeare, hip hop and controversy.

Joining the fun will be Highland High School performers and local spoken word artists.

According to professor and chair of English, Neal Lester, “this event will bring Shakespeare to new audiences and bridge the nebulous cultural gap between what is perceived as ‘high brow’ and ‘low brow.’ The ultimate focus of the event on language, narrative, performance, rhythm, and the human condition will surely unite and teach us all.”

“Shaking up Shakespeare” is presented by the department of English, the English Club @ASU, the Black Theatre Troupe, Arizona Humanities Council and the ASU School of Theatre and Film. For more information contact Kristen LaRue, (480) 965-7611 or