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Mount Union attracts the “Third Rock” to perform Shakespeare

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Alliance – Vanessa Stewart and Kevin Kern began their theatrical journey early teaching Shakespeare to elementary school students.

Working with four other actors, the duo taught the children the basics of Shakespeare before performing on stage at the end of the school day.

“If you pick them up young, they won’t be told yet that Shakespeare is hard to understand because they are learning the language themselves,” Stewart said.

“They were really open to the world and the language and the stories because a lot of the stories were familiar to them and it was fun,” she said. “Shakespeare has these wonderful metaphors that are familiar to us today, so it was a very good first work for me.”

The cast debuted in Los Angeles, and Kern and Stewart would go on to have success in the field.

Kern is Associate Professor of Theater at Mount Union University. Stewart is an award-winning stage actress, best known for her role in the musical ‘Louis & Kelly: Live in the Desert’, which she co-wrote.

And the friends recently worked with the pupils of Mount Union on the 10th Anniversary Celebration of Shakespeare at the Castle, an annual summer production at the historic Alliance Castle of Glamorgan.

“I consider myself an advocate for artists,” Stewart said. “I think it’s important for me to give back because of my story… Because I come from small theaters and people believed in me, now is the time to give back and help others grow.” And faith in others. »

Shakespeare at the castle also received enthusiastic support from Stewart’s husband, French Stewart, best known for his role in the popular sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun.”

Stewart has also appeared on the CBS sitcom “Mom” as well as Hollywood movies, including “Inspector Gadget 2.”

Tickets for this summer’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing” will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday. https://www.mountunion.edu/arts-and-culture/theater-events/shakespeare-at-the-castle. The shows will take place at 7pm 27-30 July and 3-6 August at Glamorgan Castle200 Glamorgan Street

Tickets range from $12 to $25 depending on whether the seats are general admission or amphitheater and whether they are purchased in advance or on the day of the show. Performances are held outdoors, but can be moved to the Giese Center for the Performing Arts in case it rains.

Much Ado About Nothing is set in post-WWII America

Kern, artistic director of Shakespeare at the Citadel, said this summer’s screening of Much Ado About Nothing will have a twist:

  • The classic Shakespeare play will take place as American soldiers return home from World War II.
  • The location has changed from Messina to Alliance.
  • Sean Naughton, who played Hamlet last year, will appear as Benedick, and Columbus actress Jess Hughes will be Beatrice.
  • Live music from that period will be shown.

Stewart plans to perform at Mount Union in the future

French and Vanessa Stewart were on the Mount Union campus in April for a special reception marking the 10th anniversary of Shakespeare at the Castle.

During the two-day visit, Stewart worked with the students to find a voice through storytelling as well as other aspects of the performing arts. Professional representatives also shared their tips and opinions on self-registration exams.

But the couple also wants to go beyond the classroom and perform alongside students in Shakespeare at the Castle. However, scheduling conflicts will delay their on-stage engagement beyond this summer.

“We can’t wait,” Vanessa Stewart said of her roles in future shows at Mount Union. We are committed to doing so. »

“It will happen,” Stewart added.

“We’ve always found the magic of having a small group of people tell a story to another small group of people because it’s magic when you get a handwritten postcard or get a real phone call from your grandmother,” he said. . “It’s a cave painting, it’s something to keep and cherish, and it’s a simple connection.

“It’s not just television and a bunch of things that pass before your eyes,” Stewart said. “People take the time to tell a story to their friends and their community.”

Working with Kern is another incentive to support Shakespeare at The Castle.

“That’s a big reason we came here,” Stewart said of the recent visit to Mount Union. “You walk in his cuteness, and then he swallows you because he’s got the goods, (and) he knows what he’s doing.”

The Story of Shakespeare in the Castle

Shakespeare at the Castle would not have been possible without the generous support of university benefactors and Dean of Mount Union Gregory L. Kingdit Kern.

He said he first pitched the idea to King before he became president.

“He leaned back and put that smile on his face and said, ‘I’m not really a theatrical person, but that’s exciting for me,'” Kern recalled. ».”

Kern said that a performance of Shakespeare at Glamorgan Castle made perfect aesthetic sense.

Ten years later, Kern said, the products have attracted a large following.

“We have Shakespeare aficionados who come from all over with copies of the text in their hands and ask us questions afterwards,” he said. “And we love them.”

Families also attend productions with young children. “It makes me feel like we really accomplished something,” said Kern.

“The things he was writing about in 1590 are the same things we think of today,” he explained. “Greed… and falling in love in an instant, and what happens when someone takes that passion away — all those universal themes. We see characters going through the same things we go through, and I think that’s why people go back to old stories.”

Former Mount Union stage manager Sarah Yanni said Shakespeare at the Castle was her introduction to professional theatre, serving as “a landing pad that is both invigorating and invigorating”.

“It benefited me and gave me the opportunity to learn when I was young and probably still a deer in the headlights,” she recalls. “I will forever be grateful to them for giving me a head start and in the process for saying to other artists, ‘Yeah, she deserves it.’”

Yanni, a New York-based actress, starred in The Sea Doesn’t Reach Naples, directed by Elena Vanoni in association with Columbia University.

“The importance of continuing with this program is essential because it gives artists, perhaps without connections, an opportunity to grow and learn in practice rather than in theory,” she said.

Yanni also credited Cairn with being instrumental in the success of Shakespeare at the Castle.

“Apart from it being one of the most beautiful places I’ve had the pleasure of working in, what sets (the program) apart is the amazing group of people that (Kairn) brings together every year,” she said.

From Shakespeare to the Third Rock

Shakespeare is a passion that Kern shares with Stewart.

“We both got Shakespeare cards,” said Vanessa Stewart. French Stewart said, “I did so many Shakespeares, so many plays, that he got all his physical comic qualities on stage.”

French Stewart said Shakespeare’s productions plant a creative seed for future success.

“It’s a hands-on experience for someone telling kids you can do this,” he said. “(Vanessa) did it. She did it. We both came from small programs and big programs, and all of a sudden you’re at Oxford, and you can do it. You can do it, and you have to believe in yourself, but if you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect someone else.”

Stewart said that a production of Shakespeare at Mount Union could lead to bigger things.

“We always go into a small theater and build something bigger, so if you come to The Alliance and start a process where you do a simple, strong, good novel … that project could survive outside of The Alliance, it might be a move to another theatre, or it could move to another theatre,” Stewart said. It grows up there…and then it could be in a couple of theaters.” “And then it could go somewhere else, but it all came from Alliance, and then Alliance got a bigger reputation for hits. »

You can reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and ebalint@gannett.com. on Twitter @ebalintREP

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