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Shakespeare’s famous heroines come to life through music and theater.

Sing along with Shakespeare

CMU students and faculty combine music and theater for an evening with the Bard

Contact: Ari Harris

​Shakespeare. His name may give you flashbacks to nights spent puzzling over the monologues of "Macbeth" in a massive text book, but a group of Central Michigan University students is about to get a different perspective.

"Learning Shakespeare is about more than sitting with your head in a book. These works are full of music, movement and drama," said Kristen McDermott, a member of the faculty in CMU's English language and literature department said.

To bring the Bard to life in a new and engaging way, faculty and students from English language and literature, communication and dramatic arts and the School of Music are partnering for "A Shakespeare Cabaret."

An interdisciplinary approach

The event is the brainchild of Casey Robards, faculty member in the School of Music and features the world premiere of four-time Emmy award-winning composer Glen Roven's "The Shakespeare Songs Book II." Roven's work sets speeches from Shakespeare's most famous leading ladies to music.

"Collaboration is, for me, the definition, the height and the reward of playing music," Robards said. "I am delighted to unite many people through word, song, music and drama to create together something new."

CMU students will perform short scenes from plays including "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Hamlet," with musical performances by guest soprano Risa Renae Harman and LaToya Lain, soprano and faculty member in the School of Music. Lindabeth Binkley and Robards, both faculty in the School of Music, will accompany on piano and oboe.

Taking tips from the pros

For Stephan Wilson, a senior studying music theater, this production is a chance to work with and learn from professionals in hands-on workshops and lessons.

Student performers will participate in two days of preproduction workshops with guest director Nick Gisonde. He currently is directing "Project MACBETH" in New York and has served as director, fight instructor and actor in numerous productions for more than 25 years.

"He doesn't hide behind fancy words or acting techniques, and I enjoy the way he ensures the actors that their performance can be a moving one for the audience," said Wilson.

Wilson was able to participate in a previous combat class with Gisonde, and he studied with Harman during the Bay View Music Festival last summer. He is excited that his fellow students will have access to these non-faculty instructors.

"It's important for students to be exposed to real-life situations in their field before they graduate," he said.

Following the event, composition students have the chance to work one-on-one with Roven, who will also give a guest lecture on surviving in show business on Monday evening.

"He has such a great message of being open to new experiences. He's a composer, but also a poet, a producer, a pianist. He has worked with pop music as well as hip-hop and opera. We often hear that we need to specialize, but he wants to tell these students to diversify. You never know what the next opportunity has to teach you," said Robards.

"A Shakespeare Cabaret" will be performed Sunday, Feb. 11, in the Staples Family Concert Hall in the CMU Music Building. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with a panel discussion on music and Shakespeare, moderated by McDermott.

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