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Modern Shakespeare adaptations presented during film series at Messiah College

GRANTHAM, Pa. (Sept. 13, 2006) — This fall, Messiah College’s Parmer Cinema will host four film productions dealing with Shakespeare’s plays, his life and his impact. Fans of the playwright can treat themselves to Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” or Nunn’s “Twelfth Night”; to the antics of a modern group of Shakespearean actors in “Shakespeare Behind Bars”; or to a fictitious story of romance, “Shakespeare in Love,” explaining Shakespeare’s inspiration for his most famous play. Every film will have two showings at 7 and at 9:30 p.m.; the series is free of charge and open to the public. At each 7 p.m. showing, a Messiah College professor or administrator will introduce the film.


Located in Boyer Hall academic building, Parmer Cinema seats up to 129, including five seats designed for wheelchair access. With its up-to-date sound and projection systems, the cinema is one of the premier cinemas on the East Coast, making for a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience.


Oct. 5: “Romeo + Juliet”

In Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Leonardo DiCaprio plays opposite a young Claire Danes as Juliet. Guns, cars and smoke have replaced the swordfights of Shakespeare’s original play, though the passion of the world-famous “star-crossed lovers” has not changed. They meet, fall in love and marry, despite the bitter feud between their two opposing families. Luhrmann brings the drama into a modern urban setting, but the challenge of the lovers—to unite in the face of prevalent violence and hatred—is the same challenge it was when Shakespeare’s troupe first played it to an Elizabethan England.

Professor Crystal Downing, associate professor of English and film studies, will introduce the 7 p.m. screening of this film.

Oct. 19: “Shakespeare Behind Bars”

This documentary features an unlikely acting troupe: twenty prison inmates who join together to put on Shakespeare productions in their spare time. The film, with its cast of characters chosen from among the stereotypical outcasts of society, is yet another tribute to Shakespeare’s uncanny ability to move the human spirit, despite differences of culture and demographics.

Jeff Rioux, director of the Larsen Student Union and of campus activities, will introduce this film at its 7 p.m. screening.

Oct. 26: “Shakespeare in Love”

Shakespeare’s plays speak well for themselves, but scholarship has, for many years, run up against a maddening silence as far as his own private life was concerned. This 1998 romantic comedy, directed by John Madden and featuring such names as Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Judi Dench and Geoffrey Rush, tries to fill that silence with a bit of theatrical fiction. Fiennes plays a young William Shakespeare, hampered by writer’s block and struggling to produce material for his sponsors. When he meets the disarmingly lovely Viola (Paltrow), he is startled to find both his inspiration and a wild romance. Out of the energy of this latter comes “Romeo and Juliet,” a play whose passion has thrilled generations of readers and viewers.

Professor Samuel Smith, a professor of English and teacher of a popular Shakespeare course, will introduce this film at 7 p.m.

Nov. 2: “Twelfth Night”

“Twelfth Night” could arguably be one of the first “romantic comedies” performed, long before Hollywood got their hands on the genre. In this 1996 production, director Trevor Nunn goes for a more traditional adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. The plot follows the playwright’s initial ingredients: a twin brother and sister, separated in a shipwreck, washed ashore in a foreign country. The sister, adopting her brother’s identity, joins the royal court. She soon becomes a confidant of Count Orsino and a participant in an increasingly confusing set of love triangles. Helena Bonham Carter plays Olivia, with whom Count Orsino is in love; Imogen Stubbs plays Viola, the sister disguised as her brother. A full cast of colorful characters joins these ladies on the screen as the intrigues of “Twelfth Night” unfold.

Professor Samuel Smith, a professor of English and teacher of a popular Shakespeare course, will also introduce this screening at 7 p.m.

About Messiah College

Messiah College, a private Christian college of the liberal and applied arts and sciences, enrolls more than 2,900 undergraduate students in 50 majors. Established in 1909, the primary campus is located in Grantham, Pa., near the state capital of Harrisburg. A satellite campus affiliated with Temple University is located in Philadelphia.

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