Angie Janas is a professional actor who most recently appear in Shipwrecked, Gulfshore Playhouse’s collaboration with the Naples Philharmonic, directed, choreographed, and adapted by Director of Education Hester Kamin.
Hi, Angie Janas here! I’m writing from my home in New York City but I just spent the last two weeks down in Naples working on Shipwrecked—a brand new adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest with Gulfshore Playhouse and the Naples Philharmonic. What’s especially exciting about Shipwrecked (as well as last year’s Starcrossed) is that 11th graders in Collier County are also getting to see and hear a world-class ensemble of musicians. For many students, this is their first time seeing Shakespeare, their first time seeing an orchestra perform, and for some, it is their first time ever seeing a show of any kind.
As a professional actor, I’ve been lucky to get to perform Shakespeare often and I count myself extraordinarily lucky to have taught and performed Shakespeare for student audiences hundreds of times, all over the United States. Even though every audience is different, there’s something magical that always seems to happen when students see Shakespeare. Students experience Shakespeare on an instinctual level that I’ve rarely experienced with adult audiences. They haven’t heard “To be or not to be” a million times before and they haven’t seen a bunch of other productions of these plays to compare it to. So instead, they really hear Shakespeare, without any preconceived notions. They have the freedom and confidence to make up their own minds about what it’s all about to them and how it makes them feel. They listen to Shakespeare with new ears and often engage more fully with the pain, joy and humor in all of Shakespeare’s plays.
It’s no secret that Shakespeare created deeply complex characters. Even the heroines and heroes in Shakespeare’s plays do or say horrible things, and even the most despicable characters clearly articulate why they do the things they do and have redeeming qualities. Shakespeare’s characters are never black or white, they exist wholly in the world of gray. In The Tempest, for example, Prospero is a loving and kind father to his daughter Miranda but we also see him scream and rage at his slave Caliban. When students see these complicated characters, they also see people they know in their own lives. They see their sister in Juliet and their best friend in Hamlet. They also meet characters that are completely different from the people they know in their own communities and it awakes more understanding and empathy for others.
And most importantly, they get to see themselves in these characters too. They see that just as these characters are brilliant and brave and complex and courageous, SO ARE THEY, and I think that has the power to fundamentally change students’ lives, all for the better.