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Shakespeare 2016! Kicks Off Oct. 11 with the Drama “Desdemona”

The three-night run of “Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief” Oct. 11–13 kicks off Shakespeare 2016!, Washington and Lee’s year-long celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare in theater, music, dance, art and scholarship.

Directed by Kate Powers of New York, W&L’s Sessoms Visiting Artist, and presented by the Department of Theater, Dance and Film, the play by Paula Vogel presents a modern take on the female characters in Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Othello.” Part “Sex and the City” and part social commentary, it looks at the possibility that Desdemona, Bianca and Emilia aspire to greater roles than those in which their patriarchal society has confined them.

The play strikes the tone for the more than 20 events — many free and all open to the public — scheduled for the coming academic year. Performances of “Desdemona” will take place in Lenfest Hall’s Keller Theater. Tickets are $5.

The second event of Shakespeare 2016! takes place Oct. 26 with a guest lecture by Ben Crystal, British actor, producer and artistic director of Passion in Practice, the London-based dramatic ensemble dedicated to teaching and presenting “how to play Shakespeare as simply as possible.” Crystal will speak on “The Once and Future Shakespeare” — why contemporary approaches to Shakespeare’s works might need to change, how we can learn from the practices of the past, and the dramatic effect those lessons have on the existing canon. His talk will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Lee Chapel. Admission is free.

On Oct. 27, Chanticleer, the internationally acclaimed, twelve-member male chorus, will perform at the Lenfest Center’s Wilson Concert Hall. The group’s repertoire includes original interpretations of vocal literature ranging from Shakespeare’s time to today. Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors and active military, $20 for W&L faculty and staff, $10 for general students and $5 for W&L students.

Perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous play, “Hamlet,” receives a new and original adaptation in “Believe None of Us” by W&L theater professor Jemma Alix Levy. To be staged Nov. 1 for one 3 p.m. performance at Lenfest’s Johnson Theater, the drama puts the Hamlets from three varying printed versions from 1603, 1604 and 1623 in conversation with each other to reveal how they differ. The cast will include professional actors from London, New York, Chicago and Staunton, Va. Admission is free.

Organized by English professor Hank Dobin, Shakespeare 2016! events focused on or related to Shakespeare and his legacy will continue on campus through next April. A complete description can be found online at www.wlu.edu/shakespeare-2016. For more information, contact Dobin at 540-458-8113.