Shakespeare In Action

Housed in the College of Arts and Architecture, but working across colleges and disciplines (particularly the departments of English and Theatre), Shakespeare In Action (SIA) serves to advance and coordinate various activities and initiatives related to the production and exploration of Shakespeare’s work and that of his contemporaries. Its goal is to further the study and enjoyment of Renaissance/Early Modern drama and culture, particularly through performance, on campus and in the broader Charlotte community.  SIA brings in guest speakers for lectures, round tables and colloquia; integrates live performance into campus learning; provides student scholarships and sponsors special classes, including a spring break program in England. SIA orchestrates student and faculty gatherings, is actively engaged in community outreach, engages with area schools, and is dedicated to fostering dialogue between experts in theatre, literature, history, art, psychology, music, education and other areas of art and material culture relevant to the study of Shakespeare’s works. SIA’s activities are funded in part by the endowment controlled by Andrew Hartley, Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies.

Between 2010 and 2016, SIA’s various activities coalesced into a single project called “36 in 6,” the mission of which was to host an event connected to each play in the Shakespeare cannon in the 6-year period leading up to the 400th anniversary of his death on April 23rd, 2016. In keeping with SIA’s previous work, these events took different forms—lectures by professors with particular expertise in the selected play, staged readings, theatre department productions, and guest productions—all culminating in a gala event built around As You Like It.

SIA was on hiatus for the 2016-17 academic year while Dr. Hartley was away on reassignment of duties. In 2017-18 SIA helped fund the Actors From the London Stage’s visiting production of Measure for Measure, and donated scholarship money to the Shakespeare in England study abroad course. In Fall 2018, the Department of Theatre presented Twelfth Night, directed by Dr. Hartley and in Fall 2021 produced the audio play, The Corona Caesar, adapted and directed by Dr. Hartley. Shakespeare and Inclusivity: a semester-long case study of The Merchant of Venice, will be presented over the Spring 2022 semester.

SHAKESPEARE & INCLUSIVITY: A Semester Long Case-Study of The Merchant of Venice (Spring 2022)

While Shakespeare’s literary and theatrical status remains significant, changes in cultural awareness, the desire for more inclusive material, and resistance to the celebration of material which incorporates racial slurs, stereotypes, and other damaging assumptions, have raised questions about his continued relevance in the twenty first century. Through a semester-long exploration of one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays, UNC Charlotte’s department of theatre—paired with Shakespeare in Action—hope to candidly consider these issues in an open pursuit of what Shakespeare’s place might be in today’s more diverse culture.

Shakespeare in Action is an initiative guided by faculty in the UNC Charlotte Theatre and English departments presenting talks, presentations and productions for both the campus population and the general public. In the 6 years leading up to the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, SIA hosted an event tied to each of his almost 40 plays.

Schedule of Events

“Mislike me not for my Complexion” - The Merchant of Venice & Shakespeare’s Diversity Problem

Wednesday, February 2, 2022 at 5:30 PM | Robinson 103

A series kickoff lecture discussion by Professor Andrew Hartley

An introduction to the play, its divisive history and its issues discussed in the context of its position both in early modern culture and within the Shakespeare canon by Robinson Shakespeare professor, Andrew Hartley. What are the flashpoints for debate in the play, how are they framed by the particular form of comedy utilized by Shakespeare at this point in his career? What concerns inform the way we contextualize problematic art, and at what point do we decide that something we once valued is now irredeemable? 

Andrew Hartley is the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies, specializing in performance theory, theatre history and dramaturgy. His academic books include The Shakespearean Dramaturg (Palgrave 2006), Julius Caesar (Shakespeare in Performance series, Manchester UP 2013), Shakespeare and Political Theatre (Palgrave 2013), Shakespeare on the University Stage (Cambridge UP 2014), Julius Caesar: A Critical Reader (Arden, 2016), and Shakespeare and Millennial Fiction (Cambridge, 2017). He was the editor of the performance journal Shakespeare Bulletin (Johns Hopkins UP) from 2003-2013 and was an Associate Artist at Georgia Shakespeare where he was a resident dramaturg, and is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Central Lancashire (UK).

"Shakespeare and Jewishness" Virtual Lecture & Presentation by Peter Holland

 Friday, February 4, 2022 at 1 PM | Zoom Link

As Shakespeare studies, as in every other part of the Academy, deals with issues of racism and other forms of exclusion (gender, sexuality, age, disability, etc.), where does that leave Merchant of Venice? It is a play with a profoundly troubled past but, it often seems, an untroubled present. I shall want to worry at and worry about that surface tranquility and see what we currently seem to be avoiding confronting. I join my fellow Anglo-Jewish writer David Baddiel in wondering why it so often seems that "Jews don't count."  

Peter Holland is the McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies at Notre Dame University. He was editor of Shakespeare Survey, the UK’s leading academic Shakespeare journal for 19 years, co-General Editor, with Stanley Wells and Lena Orlin, of Oxford Shakespeare Topics (Oxford University Press, over 30 volumes to date); with Adrian Poole, of the 18-volume series Great Shakespeareans (Bloomsbury Academic, 2009-13); with Farah Karim-Cooper and Stephen Purcell of a monograph series, Shakespeare in the Theatre (Bloomsbury Academic, 15 volumes to date); and, with Zachary Leader and Tiffany Stern, of the Arden Shakespeare 4th series. He has also edited many Shakespeare plays.

Prince of Morocco Scenes Workshop

Friday, February 18, 2022 at 2 PM | Rowe 163

This workshop/discussion of the Prince of Morocco scenes, led by UNC Charlotte Assistant Professor Chris Berry, is an actor approach to act 2 scene 1 and act 2 scene 7 in which we will examine the text for ideas and performance approaches to a section of the play which foregrounds race and Otherness. Six students will work with faculty on the scenes through conversation and rehearsal in front of a live audience, concluding with an open discussion of the issues and strategies raised. Click here to register for this opportunity.

Chris Berry is an actor, director, professor, and dialect coach. He received his BFA in Acting from North Carolina A&T (‘08) and his MFA in acting from  Brown University/Trinity rep (‘11). He serves as the Vice President of the Black Theatre Network and also serves as the Program Director of the Black Arts Institute, a partnership between the Billie Holiday Theatre and Stella Adler Studio of acting. His dialect coaching work includes P-Valley (Starz), The Hot Wing King (The Signature Theatre, Off-Broadway), Heels (Pre-Production, Starz). As the Vice President of the Black Theatre Network, he has planned two national conferences, Black Theatre: Unapologetically Black (Winston-Salem, 2019) and Black Theatre: Radical Longevity (2020, Postponed until 2022). He has also planned the Black Theatre Network's online event Black Theatre Week. As an actor, he has had the pleasure to work at The Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center, Playmakers Repertory Company, The National Black Theatre, Trinity Repertory Company as well as many others.

"The Merchant of Venice Performed" Lecture & Presentation by Kirk Melnikoff

Monday, February 28, 2022 at 5 PM | Robinson 103

In this talk, UNC Charlotte Department of English Professor Kirk Melnikoff will explore the challenges and opportunities that Shakespeare's middle comedy poses to performers. He will also survey some of the more important recent professional stagings of the play like Jonathan Miller's iconic show at London's National Theatre in 1970 and Darko Tresnjak's Theatre for a New Audience production in New York City in 2007.

Kirk Melnikoff is Professor of English at UNC Charlotte, specializing in Shakespeare Studies, Elizabethan Literature, and Shakespeare on Film. Recent publications include “Publishing Virginia (1608-1615): Specialization, Commissioning, Networks” The Oxford Handbook to the History of the Book in Early Modern England. Ed. Adam Smyth. Oxford UP, 2021; Contributing Editor, James IVRoutledge Anthology of Non-Shakespearean Drama, Ed. Jeremy Lopez. Routledge, 2020, 508-74; “Isabella Whitney amongst the Stalls of Richard Jones.” Women’s Labour and the History of the Book in Early Modern England. Ed. Valerie Wayne. Arden, 2020, 145-61; Elizabethan Publishing and the Makings of Literary Culture. University of Toronto Press, 2018; and Christopher Marlowe, Theatrical Commerce and the Book Trade (with Roslyn L. Knutson). Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Michael Radford's Merchant of Venice (2005) Screening & Post-show Discussion

Monday, March 14, 2022 at 6 PM | Robinson 103

A screening of Michael Radford’s BAFTA-winning film version of Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino, Joseph Fiennes, Jeremy Irons with a post-screening discussion led by UNC Charlotte Robinson Professor of Shakespeare, Andrew Hartley.

Student Trip to Shakespeare Theatre Company

March 25-27, 2022 | Washington, DC

A student trip to Washington DC to see The Merchant of Venice at The Shakespeare Theatre Company/Theatre for a New Audience and to visit museums and historical sites. The Department of Theatre will cover the student’s train travel, hotel and theatre ticket. Space is limited; preference will be given to students who have attended at least two events in the Shakespeare and Inclusivity series. Click here to apply for this opportunity.

Students must apply by the deadline of February 18, 2022

Merchant of Venice Seated Reading & Discussion

Friday, April 1, 2022 at 3 PM | Rowe Recital Hall

A seated reading featuring Charlotte-based professional actors and UNC Charlotte Department of Theatre students with an audience-centered discussion after the reading.