Hyperion Scene Recitals Perform Shakespeare's Best

“If you can approach a Shakespeare work and come away with an understanding of it—of both the fundamental truths of human existence it presents and its brilliantly deliberate language—then you can approach and access anything within the humanities,” director Matthew B. Barrieau ’16 explains. “That’s why this Harvard tradition of presenting individual scenes is so important. It makes Shakespeare more accessible to first-time actors and viewers.”

Barrieau is one of several Harvard undergraduates directing the Hyperion Scene Recitals, running March 7 to 8 in the Adams Pool Theater. This year, to honor the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare, the Hyperion Shakespeare Company has selected scenes from the Bard’s greatest hits, the production’s theme.  In 90 minutes, favorite monologues and familiar scenes will be presented by a slew of actors, both veteran and novice.

With auditions held one week after Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Company’s Common Casting and an unconventional array of actors, the Hyperion Scene Recitals’s cast is united by one thread—a common love of Shakespeare.  “What I love about the Hyperion Scene Recitals is that it  allows the actor to explore a variety of pieces from the canon in a relaxed but rigorous environment, all with an extremely supportive and fun group of people. Need I say more?" actress Mallika A. Snyder ’17 says.


Barrieau will direct the famous handkerchief scene from “Othello," Act III, Scene III and the climax of “King Lear,” Act III, Scene II. “The difficulties of each of the scenes are really distinct because with ‘Othello,’ it is a challenge of finding ways to cut the scene while leaving behind a discrete unit that is inherently meaningful,” Barrieau says. “With ‘King Lear,’ however, the scene is quite emotionally charged, but we don’t have the entire play to build up to Lear going mad with grief.”

In order to draw out greater emotion from Julius B. Ross ’17, who plays King Lear, one rehearsal took place on the banks of the Charles River during heavy snowfall to evoke the starkness and uninhibited desperation of the scene, according to Barrieau.

What makes this contemporary production of Shakespeare interesting is not superficial elements like setting or costume. It is the fervor of Harvard undergraduates injecting new lifeblood into the canon, reinvigorating oft-heard scripts lines with their personal understanding of the wordplay and universality of a work. “The recital is worth seeing because it’s only produced because the actors love the material and have dedicated themselves to it,” Ross says.


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