Students at Townsend Harris High School are no strangers to William Shakespeare’s written works, but few have had the chance to see the works as they are meant to be seen — on stage. Thanks to AP English and Drama teacher Joseph Canzoneri, students had the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona at Theater for a New Audience in Brooklyn. This show was a new experience for many of the students who had never seen a live Shakespeare production before.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona was one of Shakespeare’s first, if not his very first, plays. It features many themes that are present in his later comedies, such as miscommunication, cross-dressing heroines, and lots of puns. The plot centers around two friends, Valentine and Proteus, and their romantic misadventures.
Accompanied by Writing Process teacher Robert Babstock, Mr. Canzoneri, along with a mix of sophomores, juniors, and seniors saw the matinee performance on Saturday, May 9. Mr. Babstock, who had joined Mr. Canzoneri on such trips in the past, had a good time at the production. “I enjoyed the rapid fire puns that had a lighthearted emotional gravity,”
Sophomore Caitlin Cassidy, a student in Mr. Canzoneri’s Drama class, commented, “Before the show we acted out a scene in our classroom and seeing the scene on stage was such an amazing experience to learn from.”
“I think it’s important for students to see live Shakespeare [and since] many of them had never seen a live show, I wanted to pick a show that they would enjoy.” Mr Canzoneri explained.
An added benefit of this particular date for the trip was the behind the scenes interview with the cast following the show conducted by Gail Karn Paster, the editor of Shakespeare Quarterly. This session lasted for 45 minutes, and gave those who could stay better insight to the actors outside of their roles and costumes.
“The most memorable part of the talkback was seeing the depth of every scene and character intentions, features that would most closely help the Drama students.” said Mr. Canzoneri. By observing these actors, his students may understand the components of theater that make it more than just reading lines off of a page.