Theater Group Reshapes Shakespeare

Crash House O Poster
CRASH HOUSE Collaborative Theater Project’s poster for "O: I Am a Murderer"

The CRASH HOUSE Collaborative Theater Project, a new program in EMU’s theater department, has taken William Shakespeare’s tragedy, "Othello," and reinvented it.

In "O: I Am a Murderer," six high school students are cast in Shakespeare’s tragedy, only to find their lives beginning to mirror the play. As they switch back and forth between Shakespearian dialog and the struggles of a modern teenager, the separation of drama from reality becomes more and more obscured.

The one-act play was written by recent EMU theater graduate Pam Mandigo, based on material generated by CRASH HOUSE participants from local high schools: Lindsey Fitzgerald, Patrice Hostetter, Liz Marin, Jeremy Morris, Emma Serrels, Mary Sodano and Mandy Stoll.

Heidi Vogel Winters, associate professor of theater at EMU
Heidi Vogel Winters, associate professor of theater

The play is directed by Heidi Winters Vogel, associate professor of theater at EMU, and will be presented 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24 in Lehman Auditorium.

Cast members are

  • Brent Anders, Souderton, Pa., Christopher Dock Mennonite High School
  • Joel DeWald and Nathan Kauffman, Goshen, Ind., Bethany Christian High School
  • Liz Marin, Harrisonburg, Eastern Mennonite High School
  • Greta Shenk, Harrisonburg, EMHS
  • Laura Wheatley, Charlottesville, Rappahannock County High School.

Costumes were designed by Alisha Huber and sound designer is Praveen Chhetri.

Finding Original, Collaborative Voices

According to Winters Vogel, the purpose of the CRASH HOUSE theater experiment is "to aid a diverse group of high school students in finding original, collaborative voices that will serve to bridge the gap between disparate subcultures and bring them together in a reconciling way."

Read more about the new program’s inception.

In addition, she said, "Students are learning to draw upon important voices of the past and present while discovering how to mold these voices into a new instrument of peace.

"In essence, we’re shaking up Shakespeare to empower local high school students to find their voice," Winters Vogel added.

The group first read and discussed "Othello" and then dissected and reshaped the play in collaboration with Winters Vogel and Mandigo.

Mandigo then took the generated material and synthesized it into an original text.

"After we stage the play on the 24th, we’ll take it to high schools during the rest of the 2008-09 school year", Winters Vogel said.

Shakespeare’s "Othello, The Moor of Venice," is believed to have been written around 1603. As a testament to its popularity, the play appeared in seven editions between 1622 and 1705. With its varied themes of racism, love, jealousy and betrayal, the work remains relevant today.

The collaborative project is being funded in part by the Arts Council of the Valley and Teatro Chirmol, a bilingual theater workshop for area youth.

Admission to the play is free, but donations will be accepted to support the CRASH HOUSE Collaborative Theater Project for 2009.