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College Celebrates 165th Commencement May 26

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Boram Lee '04 Wins International Public Policy Fellowship

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Students Teach Each Other about Bioethics by "Cloning" National Council

Mount Holyoke Actors Take to the Italian Stage

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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

May 24, 2002

Mount Holyoke Actors Take to the Italian Stage

Photo: Ben Barnhart

(From left) Beth Wienert '04, Minelly Mercado '04, Sarah Cook '05, and Reba (Rebecca) Short '02, in costume for their roles in Strindberg's The Mother.

The Italian city of Arezzo was once home to Renaissance masters of art and literature, including the celebrated fresco painter Piero della Francesca and the poet Francesco Petrarch, whose internationally popular sonnets inspired the love sonnets of William Shakespeare and other sixteenth-century English poets. Four Mount Holyoke students are becoming part of Arezzo's cultural and artistic heritage as they perform in the Festivale Internazionale del Teatro Corto that began May 20 and continues through May 28.

Festivale Internazionale, which is sponsored by Arezzo's international school for the performing arts Accademia Dell'Arte, is designed to be a meeting ground for professional training schools and university and performing arts departments. Along with Mount Holyoke, Rhodes College, Washington and Lee University, the University of Texas at Austin, Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), and three Italian schools were selected to participate in this year's event, which continues a twenty-one-year tradition of a festival of one-act plays in Arezzo. Mount Holyoke's students received funding from the Office of the President and the Office of the Dean of the College.

Sarah Cook '05, Minelly Mercado '04, Reba (Rebecca) Short '02, and Beth (Jeanne) Wienert '04, are representing MHC under the direction of Alycia Smith-Howard, visiting assistant professor and departmental coordinator of first-year students in the Department of Theatre Arts. At the Teatro Petrarca, a nineteenth-century opera house, they are presenting August Strindberg's one-act play The Mother, which explores the relationships and secrets among four nineteenth-century women and examines issues of societal norms, sexuality, and class struggle.

On an outdoor stage in the city's historic center, they will premiere Ophelia Machine, an original play by Short, a theatre major and women's studies minor who played Ophelia in MHC's April production of Hamlet. Written in a dramaturgy class with Holger Teschke, visiting professor of theatre arts, Short's ten-minute play is a response to Heiner Müller's Hamlet Machine, which the senior describes as a hopeless, depressing series of "angsty monologues" responding to Shakespeare's Hamlet and World War II. Short says that Ophelia Machine mimics Müller's style by using "angst-filled, Courtney Love-esque language" but challenges Müller's hopelessness by putting Ophelia on center stage and giving her a chance to say—more clearly and concisely than she does in Shakespeare's madness scenes—"Get a grip and do something!" The drama was one of eight chosen to receive the 2002 James Baldwin Playwriting Award in the Word! festival sponsored by the Five College Multicultural Theatre Committee.

"This experience will give our students opportunities to think beyond the theatrical work they are involved in at Mount Holyoke and within the Five Colleges," said Smith-Howard. "Artistically, they will face the challenges of packing up a production and relocating it in a space that is not their own. Socially, this experience will test their abilities of diplomacy, tenacity, and collaboration, as well as critical and creative thinking. This is an invaluable learning opportunity to share and exchange visions and perspectives within a different cultural context and artistic climate." Smith-Howard hopes that Mount Holyoke's appearance at the festivale might become a regular feature of the theatre department's program and artistic life.

For Short, who has never traveled abroad before, the opportunity is also a personal adventure that came as a wonderful surprise just when she started thinking about graduating and applying for jobs teaching community theatre in the states. "I'm going to bring my résumé and pass it out and see what happens," said Short before departing. "Mount Holyoke has given me a really well-rounded education in theatre, and I know I can do whatever is needed. I'm supposed to come back August 19, but we'll see. . . . "

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