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Release: Sept. 5, 2000

Shakespeare enters digital age in Saturday Scholars presentation Sept. 9

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The best way to understand and appreciate Shakespeare is to imagine the works as performances with the characters interacting. Such visualization can be difficult for those who have had limited exposure to Shakespeare performed live or on film. Miriam Gilbert, a University of Iowa professor of English, has developed a thoroughly modern way to expose students to Shakespeare in performance and will share her multi-media Shakespeare in "Shakespeare, Side by Side," Saturday, Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. in Room 40 Schaeffer Hall.

The program, part of the UI College of Liberal Arts "Saturday Scholars" series, is free and open to the public. In a preview to her presentation, Gilbert will be a guest on "Iowa Talks," on WSUI (AM-910) on Friday, Sept. 8 at 10 a.m.

After nearly 30 years of teaching Shakespeare to undergraduates, Gilbert embraced some new technology to digitize her curriculum. Aided by an explosion of film and video versions of Shakespeare's works, Gilbert decided to capture individual scenes from the plays on CD-ROM, collecting several versions of a single scene side by side on the disc. This enabled her to present contrasting versions of the same scene at the click of a mouse, allowing students to compare the actors' and directors' interpretative choices.

For example, when teaching "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Gilbert uses a CD with clips from four different approaches to the play -- the 1935 Hollywood version, the 1969 version filmed by Peter Hall, the 1981 BBC version, and the 1996 film based on a Royal Shakespeare Company production. Using the CDs results in a fast and flexible way of working with a range of interpretations of Shakespeare's plays, she said.

"It's a way to try to get people to think visually and aurally, to see it, hear it, imagine it," Gilbert said. "I want people to think of Shakespeare as performed and to think of the range of possible interpretations. This way they can quickly access many more productions than they could ever get to in person."

She said she hopes her Saturday Scholars audience will come away with a fresh outlook on a subject many of them may have abandoned decades ago in high school or college classrooms.

Gilbert began her teaching career in the UI College of Liberal Arts in 1969. She is the co-editor of two major drama anthologies for college students, "Stages of Drama," and "Modern and Contemporary Drama." Her work on Shakespeare's plays in performance includes a number of articles, plus a book-length study of "Love's Labor's Lost." She is also known for her articles on teaching Shakespeare through classroom performance-based activities and has directed eight summer seminars, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, for both college and high school teachers of Shakespeare and other dramatic texts.

"Saturday Scholars," developed by Linda Maxson, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, gives members of the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by professors in the college. The sessions last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by time for questions. Refreshments are served. Future lectures in the series are scheduled for Sept. 16 and 23 and Oct. 7, 14, and 21. All presentations begin at 10 a.m. in Room 40, Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts in advance at 335-2610.