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Students put their own spin on ‘Richard II’

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Ellie

Ellie Rogers rehearses for her role as Richard II in the eponymous play by William Shakespeare. Credit: Courtesy of Lord Denney’s Players

While William Shakespeare’s “Richard II” might not be adept at handling finances — wrongfully taking money from his subjects to finance a war — Ohio State’s English department has managed to produce four sold-out performances of the play with a single donation.

Last academic year, an alumni couple anonymously gave $50,000 to the department with the stipulation that it go toward two major projects within the department, said Hannibal Hamlin, a professor in the Department of English.

Since spring 2014, plans for the production have been in the works, Hamlin said.

“It’s an interesting process. A lot of students are involved,” Hamlin said. “I’m actually acting in it.”

He will be playing the role of the gardener in the play along with working on promoting it.

Although the play has a majority of male characters, the director, Sarah Neville, an assistant professor in the English department, has adapted it to be more “gender blind,” and both of the leads will be played by women so as to give them equal representation in a male-dominated play.

Ellie Rogers, a third-year in theatre, will play Richard II.

“I don’t really play it any differently than I would any other role because I don’t think that should be important,” Rogers said. “I think the importance should be his character, not his gender.”

The production has come together through the help of students of the course, Special Topics in Shakespeare. Lord Denney’s Players, the department’s theater group, is also involved in the production.

“Every aspect of the play involves students,” Hamlin said. This includes both graduate and undergraduate students, and staff and faculty are involved as well.

The students of Special Topics in Shakespeare have studied different plays by Shakespeare, but have studied “Richard II” extensively, said Kristen Gramajo, a fourth-year in English and psychology who is on the production’s promotional team.

The actors of the production are devoting about 16 hours per week, while others devote approximately 10 hours, she said.

Although being part of the production has been time-consuming, Patrick Esguerra, a third-year in English, said he’s benefited from his role promoting the play.

“Just hearing the process of how we’re going to put our own spin on the process, it makes me appreciate how difficult the director and playwright’s job can be,” Esguerra said.

Gramajo said she felt she benefited differently.

“I wasn’t the biggest fan of Shakespeare because I found it difficult to understand, but immersing myself in the production, I find it easier to understand Shakespeare and the way it was meant to be done,” she said.

While Rogers has an unusual role in the production, she said she feels honored to have the role.

“I was stunned when they offered it. It’s just a really awesome opportunity,” Rogers said.

The play will be held Friday, Saturday and April 23-24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Columbus Performing Arts Center. The first two will involve a deposition, while the last two will not, Gramajo said.

The deposition involves another scene of the play, which Rogers said she feels gives the play an entirely different feeling.

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