Students explore Shakespeare’s "Titus Andronicus"
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 00:02
William Shakespeare’s vicious and grisly play “Titus Andronicus” premieres at USF on Feb. 21, 2013 as part of the USF School of Theatre and Dance’s British International Theatre Program, also known as the BRIT program, which brings in theater professionals and specialists to work with students.
The play centers around Roman soldier Titus, who dedicates his life to the Roman army. Tamora, Queen of the Goths, seeks revenge against Titus, who sacrifices Tamora’s eldest son in an attempt to avenge his own son’s death.
The cast has been in rehearsals since early January in preparation for “Titus,” some lasting 10 hours.
Ryke Stearns, a senior majoring in theater performance who is acting in the lead role of Titus Andronicus in the production, said the role is one he has long coveted.
“When I was in the eighth grade I had to read a bunch of Shakespeare and (Titus) was one of the two of his that I absolutely loved,” he said. “Honestly it’s a dream role of mine so I’m really excited to do it.”
The play, which was written in the 16th century, contained much language — as most Shakespearean plays do — to which the cast had to adjust.
“We really had to work on our diction and articulation, how we sound, making sure that we actually understand what we’re saying because the text is so dense,” Laydelis Piloto, a theater performance and women and gender studies major who is acting as Tamora in the show, said.
Taking apart the thick text was essential for the cast members to truly understand what they are trying to convey to their audience.
“I feel like along with the text being difficult to grasp for us, the challenge is again allowing the audience to understand even if they don’t understand every word they need to understand the gist,” theater performance major David Dasilma, who plays the role of Aaron, said.
Helen Tennison, the director for “Titus,” is visiting for the 2012-13 season as a part of the BRIT program.
Tennison, who has directed plays such as “Sense and Sensibility” and been nominated for “Best Director” by the Off West End Awards for the 2010 tour of “Breakfast with Emma,” has been injecting the play with genuine charm, bringing students a unique experience in learning “Titus.”
“She has a way with working with the text and with Shakespeare text is a huge deal and she just makes it come out so easily,” Stearns said. “Her style of directing is great but really it’s her imagination that I love about her and it’s been a pleasure working with her for sure.”
While having such a distinguished guest may have been intimidating for the cast, her passion and professionalism gave the cast a new energy for their upcoming show.
“There’s an energy that she brings into our rehearsals, she doesn’t need to do anything it’s just her presence. And that’s what she tries to teach us to have,” Dasilma said. “She just doesn’t tell you what to do, you discover it yourself and that empowers you as an actor, especially moving into the professional world.”
The production will be a more modern take on the classic play, and while the performers did not want to give too much away, Dasilma said it is “universally contemporary.”
The play, which is notorious for its gore, highlights issues of society that were relatable to the cast of the play.
“There’s so much blood and gore and things in the play that are very prominent in this society,” Piloto said. “People just kind of put up this wall like ‘Oh, it doesn’t happen, that would never happen to me.’ There’s a rape scene (in the play). That’s such a prominent issue in today’s society and people just kind of put it on the back burner. The audience will see this, will watch the play, and be so horrified that they will want to change the world we live in.”
“Titus Andronicus” will run from Feb. 21 to March 3 in Theater II. Students can purchase tickets in advance online or over the phone for $8, or the night of the show at the theater for $10.