To Be, Never Not To Be

Courtesy Photo / Roger Ellis
GVSU students Ann Dilworth and Joe Cox will be playing the roles of Rosalind and Orlando

Courtesy Photo / Roger Ellis GVSU students Ann Dilworth and Joe Cox will be playing the roles of Rosalind and Orlando

The Grand Valley State University Shakespeare Festival has been synonymous with fall for the past 17 years at the university. The festival attracts high schools from across the state as the theatre majors perform their yearly tributes to the Bard.

This year, the festival will consist of a lecture by Jim Volz titled, “Why a Shakespeare Festival,” performances of “As You Like It,” the Renaissance Faire, Bard to Go performances and the first High School Drama Competition.

“We have always had a college Shakespeare Competition for the entire time the festival has been in existence, so we decided to start a performance competition in Shakespeare for high school students,” said Karen Libman, a theater professor who will act as a stage director at this year’s festival. “We actually hope to expand the awards into small scholarships to GVSU to encourage students to attend our theatre program.”

The student competition for those currently enrolled at GVSU will take place Nov. 6 at the Loosemore Auditorium on the Pew Campus. Cash prizes will be awarded in the categories of critical and creative writing, as well as visual and performing arts with all subjects tying directly back to Shakespeare himself.

“As You Like It” was selected for this year’s main performance, which after a few challenges is ready to open on Friday night. Ann Dilworth, who will play Rosalind, was ill for a few days leading up to the performance. As of Wednesday night, Roger Ellis, founding director of the production, said Dilworth was feeling fine again and ready to perform.

Shakespeare Festival will play host to more than 1,500 high school students from across the state by festival’s end. Conversely, Bard to Go was conceived in light of the fact that some high schools simply cannot make the trip to GVSU, with previous incarnations of the troupe having traveled as far as Italy, China and Jamaica.

“Karen Libman has received national recognition for her work in developing Bard to Go, and our 2008 performance at Sapperlot International Theatre Festival was awarded the title of Best Production,” said managing director James Bell. “It’s fascinating to think this entire festival and the awards it’s garnered all began with discussions between (former GVSU President) Don Lubbers and members of the Theatre and English departments.”

The Renaissance Faire, which features an even mixture of both theatre and English disciplines, will once again find its home on the lawns surrounding the university’s Cook Carillon Tower starting at 10 a.m. on Oct. 9. “Overall, the festival hopes to contribute significantly to the cultural landscape of the local communities,” Ellis said. “By providing high-quality productions of Shakespeare plays, we hope to enhance the educational experience of as many students as possible.”

For more information on performance times, entry guidelines or any other inquiries, visit

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