The Hyperion Shakespeare Company plays in Adams Pool Theater.
The Adams Pool is a place of legend. Home to particularly raucous parties of the past, it seems to breathe freedom and excitement into all who enter. From the first steps down a narrow corridor in the maze of halls that constitute Adams House, pool goers are imbued with a longing for myth and an appetite for romance. And when facing the stony visage of Poseidon on the far wall, one is mesmerized into remaining.
This past weekend, the Homeric intimations of the pool were felt once again by the audience members of Diamonds in the Ruff, a production of The Hyperion Shakespeare Company. A company well known on Harvard’s campus, Hyperion puts on two shows a semester: one full production of a Shakespeare play and one compilation of scenes from multiple Shakespeare plays. Diamonds in the Ruff is a scene compilation. It showcased dialogue from less celebrated plays and scenes as well as a welcome address written and performed by actor and director Nathaniel Brodsky ’18 — in iambic pentameter! It was unexpected by both avid Shakespeare enthusiasts and by those who only quote, “To be, or not to be” when deciding whether to show up for class.
The plays from which Diamonds drew include Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Troilus and Cressida. The cast included Hyperion greats as well as a number of newcomers and freshmen. The common casting held at the beginning of every semester for the company ensures that a diverse range of students are given the opportunity to explore their dramatic tendencies. Sophomore Marisa Salatino ’18 was new to the company and states that both the makeup of the company and the content of the productions attracted her to the project. She stated, “When I realized that the Hyperion Shakespeare Company’s show fit my schedule this semester, I absolutely had to audition!” As described by Salatino, the audience can “experience the full gamut of Shakespeare plays: comedies, tragedies, and histories,” through this particular scene recital. Her rendition of Richard II moved the audience in the ways of Shakespearian royalty. With a kingly entrance and a stirring relinquishment of the crown, Salatino can call her first foray into Hyperion productions a success.
Another student, Jamie Herring ‘18, lent his talent to both the stage and the director’s chair. Herring played Romeo in the second scene of the night and directed the Edward III scene. On the binary nature of his roles Herring fondly stated, “I love both acting and directing! I find that my directing is greatly aided by my [experience] as an actor – I am able to cater more towards actors’ needs and so am much more sympathetic as a director towards capabilities. The thing that I strive for with both acting and directing is just to have fun! Because if you’re having fun, inevitably the audience will be too.”
This was certainly the case for Saturday night’s show as Herring portrayed a funny, relatable, and impatient Romeo. As he continually attempted to wish Juliet’s Nurse farewell, our Romeo paced up and down the center aisle stairs, which brought him very close to the audience.
The unique set up of the Pool Theater demands such proximity (we can assume such was the goal of alleged ‘naked pool parties’ of times long gone). With only one center aisle between two sections of seating leading down to a lower, flat stage surrounded by mirrors to both sides and the open-mouthed face of Poseidon on the back wall, both the audience and performers are drawn into a dramatic and secluded world.
Herring praises these qualities of the theater, “The Adams Pool Theater is one of the greatest theaters on campus. Its uniqueness in terms of its architecture allows for theater to be produced that is pure in terms of its directorial inspiration. The mirrors on the wall open up huge numbers of possibilities as an actor and a director, providing a physical manifestation of the reflective and introvert nature of acting. The Pool Theater is one of my favorite spaces on campus, and acting there is one of the most rewarding experiences.”
Though many audience members certainly would rank this Shakespeare production as one of their favorites, it is not created entirely with the entertainment of the audience in mind. According to a multitalented Brodsky, “Scene Recital in general is a unique production because its focus is all on actors enjoying themselves and trying something new.” This is the reason the production aims to enrich actors’ experiences through flexible rehearsal schedules and the casting of everyone who auditions. Who said theater at Harvard is exclusive?
Perhaps because the actors and directors were enjoying themselves, as Herring said, the audience did as well! One attendee mused, “the actors seemed so enthusiastic and the music played between scenes was so upbeat that everyone in the pool had to have a good time!” Indeed the pop music played in the time between scenes was both a connection to contemporary tastes and a lively way for audience members to stay involved during transition periods for cast and crew.
At times, Shakespeare is given such a weighty presence in school that the pure enjoyment of his plays can be lessened. The Adams Pool Theater brings much of that back to all participating. Producer Alice Berenson ’16 remarks how the company “loves the Pool for Scene Recital” not only for its “interesting aesthetic” but also because “there aren’t many theaters that are both scaled for small scenes and so fun to play in without a set.”
And so, the production of Diamonds in the Ruff could not have been played in a more suitable setting. Both the Pool Theater and the scenes performed have been, arguably, unappreciated at times. As an Adams resident myself, it was the first time I had even entered the Pool. Fear not, dear readers and Pool enthusiasts, it will not be the last.
Caroline Cronin ’18 (email@example.com) wonders whether past Adamsians ever predicted the pool that housed their raunchy diversions would also house Shakespeare’s.