Technology Allows Students to See Live Performance of 'Hamlet'
BY HANNAH SHARPE
As the semester waned toward Christmas break, Ann Petersen, an advance placement English teacher at Pinecrest High School, relented to her students' restlessness, and gave her class an afternoon off to go to the movies.
Well, sort of.
Instead of spending the day in the classroom going over William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Petersen decided to give her students a chance see the play come to life - live from London.
Thanks to the Sunrise Theater's broadcast program of live theater performances, students were treated to front row seats at the London National Theatre's performance of "Hamlet" via simulcast in Southern Pines.
The Sunrise is in its second year of offering live, high-definition simulcast performances from The Metropolitan Opera in New York City and the National Theatre in London to the community.
Ann Petersen said she jumped at the opportunity to give her students a chance to see the play in a live performance.
"It's an exposure," Petersen said. "Many of the students here today have never been to see a performance of Shakespeare's works. While I can't afford to get them all to London, I can give them a piece of it."
Emily Rolland, a student in Petersen's class, said she was surprised to discover access to major theatrical performances from a premier theater in her own community.
"It's neat to be so globally connected like this," she said. "To see something like 'Hamlet' acted out so well in London is pretty epic. You can get a better idea of what was actually meant to go on in the play."
Students read the play aloud and watched parts of the movie in Petersen's class before seeing the live performance.
Jason Wolonick often read Hamlet's role aloud in class. A fan of theater arts, he said he tried to "put some energy" into the character of Hamlet while he read, but he said that some of his classmates did not enjoy reading aloud Shakespeare's iambic pentameter verse, which is sometimes harder to understand.
Before the play, Wolonick said he hoped his classmates would be able to take more away from the story's verse in a live performance.
"I think it'll help them see that it's not just a homework assignment," he said.
Set in modern day, actors portrayed Shakespeare's tragedy of Hamlet, the brooding prince of Denmark, who becomes increasingly erratic with his desire to avenge his father's murder.
For several of Petersen's students, seeing the play in its true medium, along with the modern setting, made the story's greater themes come alive.
"I think that the way ['Hamlet'] was portrayed in this play was a little easier to understand than the movie and what we read," Neal Lewis said. "I like that they stayed true to the play because I was able to pick up on a lot of the quotes."
Nichole Mayberry was expecting to see the play set in its original period but found that the story still conveyed the same meaning in a different setting.
"[The modern setting] kind of threw me for a loop in the beginning there," she said. "The themes are still relevant today. [The story is] not something that's stuck in time. It can always take on new twists and turns and still essentially be Shakespeare."
Mayberry said she would love to go to London to see a real performance, but she'll settle for a live simulcast for the time being, now that she knows they are at the Sunrise.
She hopes to come back for more performances in the future, especially if a performance of "Frankenstein" is ever on the schedule.
Petersen said she is thankful to live in a community with a deep appreciation for the arts and to be able to expose that appreciation to her students.
"It's shockingly wonderful that this is right here," she said. "This was just a fortuitous and wonderful piece of luck that we were studying 'Hamlet' now."
Petersen is already tailoring next semester's syllabus to include a trip back to the Sunrise to see "King Lear" in February.
"It's just another piece to fit into the British literature component of 12th-grade English," she said.
Anyone wanting more information about live simulcast performances at the Sunrise Theater can call (910) 692-8501 or visit www.sunrisetheater.com.
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