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The Night of Shakespeare’s Drama: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Author:Zhao Yukuan  Date:2021-09-07  Clicks:

Stunning posters, melodious singing, and soul-shocking performances weaved a glorious dream on this midsummer night. On May 24, 2021, the end-of-semester ceremony of four courses on Shakespeare Drama was held in the hall of WHU’s School of Foreign Languages and Literature. Huang Bei and Wan Songling, both teachers from WHU’s School of Art, and Yan Chang and Zhang Dongyan, both teachers from the School of Foreign Languages and Literature, served as the distinguished guests. This closing ceremony rendered students an opportunity to immerse themselves in the charm of Shakespeare’s plays outside the classroom, implementing this new concept by the General Education Center of WHU.

“Shakespeare Once Again”, is a phrase often quoted by Dai Danni, an associate professor of the School of Foreign Languages and Literature and the organizer of the Shakespeare-teaching team. After a semester of study, the students from the four courses - the core general course of WHU Shakespeare and Western Society (SWS), the common general course Introduction to Shakespeares Drama (ISD), Selected English Drama for the 2019 English majors and Drama Literature for the 2020 postgraduates in British and American literature - have obviously fully grasped its meaning. They picked up paint brushes, or dressed up as characters in the plays, demonstrating their respective understandings of Shakespeare’s drama through posters and performances and igniting a cluster of charming fireworks for this midsummer night.

Ms. Dai is presiding at the ceremony

Accompanied by Mendelssohn’s overture for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a series of exquisite posters appeared on the screen in a continuous stream at the opening. It is worth mentioning that the poster designed by Chen Sijia for Romeo and Juliet employed cute Lego mini figures for the main bodies against a dark blue background, fully expressing the beauty and sadness of the love between Romeo and Juliet; Xie Hantao used the color of night as the background, with a red rose, a symbol of passionate love, tearing the darkness like fire, vividly depicting the romance of A Midsummer Nights Dream and wowing the audience.


Poster of Romeo and Juliet   

       Poster of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Having appreciated the posters, the sweet and tuneful song What is a Youth by Zhu Xinyi and Gao Jing from the 2018 HongYi Honor College kicked off the prelude to the following drama performances. On this dreamy summer night, the adaptation and performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream were indispensable. Groups 3 and 4 of Class Three from the SWS Course “rehearsed” the scene of the play-within-a-play in the magic forest and amused the audience with their “horrible” acting. The 2020 postgraduate students of British and American literature reversed the sex of Titania and Oberon - the well-designed stage costumes and props, coupled with lively sound effects, made people feel like they were in a forest.  Groups 1 and 2 of Class Three from the SWS Course presented an English version of the quarrel scene among the young couples. The court scene from The Merchant of Venice by Groups 2 and 3 of Class Two from the SWS Course was equally classic, with students crossing verbal swords with each other, exciting and breathtaking. The Taming of the Shrew by Groups 1 and 4 of Class Two from the SWS Course performed the scene of “the shrew’s submission” in a different way, rendering the audience pleasantly surprised after seeing Petruchio become a henpecked man.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the 2020 postgraduate student of British and American literature

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Groups 1 and 2 of Class Three from the SWS Course

The performances by the special guests pushed the ceremony to a climax. Zhang Zhiqun from the ISD Course and the special guest Pu Junlin presented the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, showing the passion and poetry of youth to the fullest and immersing the audience in romanticism and emotion. Next, the drama Salome, also starring Pu Junlin and directed by Yan Chang, gradually unfolded in the darkness.

With the perfect use of light and shadow, the desire and paranoia of Herod as well as the obsession and madness of Salome were vividly displayed, and even the students in the last row were terrified by the strong dramatic tension and immersive experience. Then, a familiar quotation appeared on the screen: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” You Jingmin from the ISD Course and the special guest Wu Chengyu performed a two-person version of the classical monologue from Hamlet, from madness to doubt, and finally back to peace, making the students fully experience what Hamlet has mentally gone through. In the end, the black humor version of the “To be or Not to be” monologue by Bu Hekai from the WHU Shakespeare Drama Club and Prof. Otto Spijkers from the WHU China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies demonstrated the struggles and contradictions of Hamlet’s inner world through the confrontation between the black and white angels, presenting to the audience an extraordinary psychological intervention meeting.

“Amazing! It’s totally unexpected that Romeo and Herod were played by the same person!” “We are learning Shakespeare’s drama, but we have learnt more than that.” The audience marveled at these performances. This kind of class-ending ceremony not only encourages students to combine theory with practice and show their creativity and artistic ability to their fullest, but also allows students to cross time and space in this audio-visual feast by virtue of multiple technologies, feeling the pulse of history and appreciating Shakespeare with his brilliant talent at close range.

Juliet (Zhang Zhiqun) and Romeo (Pu Junlin)

Herod (Pu Junlin) and his Queen (Aesol)

In the end, the invited teachers gave high evaluations on this final ceremony and put forward some unique opinions: Zhang Dongyan praised the students’ performances on the whole, and commented on many details. Based on the stage presentations, Huang Bei encouraged everyone to re-create Shakespeare’s plays with their own understanding and creativity, and Wan Songling made further professional suggestions the “use actions to present emotions”, thus expressing her expectations for the students’ future performances.

Photo by Wang Songjian

Edited by Chen Jiaqi, Qin Zehao, Zhang Yilin

(a winning entry from "Impressive Luojiathe second graphic, text and video collection activity of WHU")


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