GVSU conference to feature feminist Shakespearean scholar

Nicole Bobb

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The English and theater departments at Grand Valley State University have come together to plan and host the university’s bi-annual Shakespeare Festival Conference.

The conference runs from Friday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Oct. 7. The location of the conference will change each day. Friday, the conference will be held on GVSU’s Allendale Campus, Saturday on the GVSU Pew Campus and Sunday at the Holiday Inn in downtown Grand Rapids.

The Shakespeare Conference was founded in 2010 with the intent to better serve area teachers by offering continuing education credits through the conference and also for current students interested in Shakespeare both in and out of the classroom.

“It’s a nice opportunity for a diverse group to get together and share ideas,” said Allison Metz, assistant professor of theater education and research at GVSU. “We have K-12 teachers, (but) mostly middle school and high school teachers. We have actors, theater administrators, professors, grad students and then we have undergrads.”

Presenters from all over the world will be joining the conference this year. There will also be a workshop for interested actors before the conference Wednesday, Oct. 5 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. presented by Satyabrata Rout from Hyderabad, India. Rout will be guest teaching in the GVSU theater department during October.

“It’s tough for theater teachers and as far as English teachers, they’re always teaching Shakespeare and that’s why our theater and English departments are working together to provide the festival (in conjunction with the conference),” Metz said.

The conference includes performances of the Shakespeare Festival Greenshow and The Tempest by Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company performance.

The keynote speaker this year is Shakespearean scholar Phyllis Rackin.

“There are several of (Rackin’s) books in the (Mary Idema Pew) library and I often see her referenced in my students’ work,” said Jim Bell, managing director of the Shakespeare Festival at GVSU. Rackin is a professor emeritus at Penn State University.

Rackin’s lecture will be held Friday, Oct. 7 at 4 p.m. in the Cook-Dewitt Center on the Allendale Campus. The event is free to attend for all students and staff at GVSU. Those interested in attending are also encouraged to watch the Greenshow performance and visit the reception before the Rackin’s lecture at 3 p.m.

“(Rackin) is a very influential scholar, we are thrilled and honored to have her here,” Metz said. “She is an expert, she is the expert on feminist theories in Shakespeare and women in Shakespeare. We weren’t sure if we would be able to get her here and we are happy to have her.”

Conference organizers hope to encourage teachers to bring theater into the classroom and to make them feel more comfortable teaching it.

“Shakespeare is all stories of the human experience, which are relatable, but they’re separated because of the language,” Metz said.