SUNY Oswego students and faculty in English and creative writing, political science, philosophy, and art and theater have seized opportunities to work with the professional actors, directors and a playwright of "Julius Caesar" and "X," which take the stage March 27 and 28 at SUNY Oswego's Waterman Theatre in the culmination of a national three-year project of The Acting Company.
The curtain will rise for William Shakespeare's classic "Julius Caesar" at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 27. Contemporary playwright Marcus Gardley's "X," about the life and death of Civil Rights leader Malcolm X, will follow at 10:30 a.m. -- a special matinee aimed at Oswego High School students -- and at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28.
SUNY Oswego has served as the lead institution for the project in the Northeast, partnering with other colleges, universities, high schools and arts groups regionally and around the nation. "Julius Caesar" and "X" will have played in Phoenix, Kansas City, New York and Baltimore before wrapping up their run at Oswego, then Le Moyne (March 30 and 31) and Hamilton (April 1 and 2) colleges.
"When we launched this project three years ago, we knew that its success would depend on the active engagement of faculty and students across our campus," said John Shaffer, the college's arts presentation director. "It's not just about bringing great performances to Oswego, but demonstrating the connection of outstanding art to every area of study and human experience."
Professors in a variety of departments have come up with creative ways to integrate the play-development experience in their course plans:
* Art faculty member Carla Senecal and her students in two semesters of "Digital Media" researched and prepared posters for the two plays that are on display at SUNY Oswego in Syracuse through March 17.
"They were really motivated because it was a project for a client," said Senecal, whose classes worked with representatives of The Acting Company and the college's Artswego. "The Acting Company was really interested in the work, and we shared some of the imagery with them."
The work of "Digital Media" student Jinyuan Duan has been chosen as the program cover art for the college's presentations of "Julius Caesar" and "X," said Senecal. Duan said the class "broadened my horizons" and taught her to look at a design problem from different angles.
* Jessica Folk of English and creative writing will engage students in two sections of "Introductory Playwriting" through reading, exploring and attending the two plays -- separated by more than four centuries, but tied together with themes of power, betrayal and assassination.
"I hope my students see that playwriting can encounter big social issues the world is dealing with and that it has relevance, has a voice," said Folk, who has tendered a class invitation to Gardley. "Plays are not an outdated medium by an means."
* Patrick Murphy, a Shakespeare specialist in the English and creative writing department, welcomed "Julius Caesar" director Devin Brain to his "Shakespeare in Film" class to discuss differences in approaching the classic script for movies and the stage. Actor Jimonn Cole, who has leading roles in both of The Acting Company's productions, also visited Murphy's classes.
* English and creative writing's Patricia Clark hosted The Acting Company artistic director Ian Belknap, director of "X," in Clark's "Writing About Literature" class a year ago, discussing the play's relationship to such works as "The Autobiography of Malcolm X."
* Political science faculty member Allison Rank this semester will assign students in "American Political Thought" readings from Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin and Malcolm X, among others. The plays' combined emphasis on historical context and patterns are ideal for helping students understand how historical context helps produce specific political moments, she said.
* Craig Delancey, who teaches "Philosophy of Mind," has invited Brain and one of the company's actors to help students explore a very different question -- the relationship between the "real" emotions an actor experiences in everyday life and the version of the same emotions that he or she is called on to project for the stage or screen.
* Theater students and faculty have participated in a variety of ways -- most directly in play development sessions with Gardley, who made appearances here and across the nation at partnering colleges and high schools to share the writing process leading to "X," as part of The Acting Company's educational outreach.
Tickets are $20 for each play ($15 each if purchasing performances of both plays; $5 per ticket for anyone under 21). They are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141. Parking for each performance is included in the price of a ticket and is available in the employee and commuter lots in front of Culkin Hall and behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls.
Patrons needing assistance to attend these events should contact 315-312-2141 prior to arrival.