Randy Reyes, director of the upcoming production “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” made it clear this may not be the Shakespeare audiences are used to. “It’s not going to be stodgy Shakespeare, in doublet and hose,” he said. In fact, not even the text of the play comes directly from Shakespeare. In conjunction with the Play On! project by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, “The Two Noble Kinsmen” is actually a translation of the text by local playwright Tim Slover. In preparation, Reyes hosted workshops in high school classes relating to translation, Shakespeare and language.
The first students Reyes visited were in a theater class at Cottonwood High School in Murray. “Basically we talked about Shakespeare and what the students’ experience was with that, why they like it, why they don’t. Then we talked about ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen,’ the play in general and more specifically the idea of translation, how it happened and why it happened, and their thoughts on a translation versus an adaptation,” Reyes said. The class went on to read a scene from Shakespeare’s original, and then a scene translated by Tim Slover. Afterward, they were instructed to write an adaptation of the translation that utilized very specific details of the scene, including the content of the conversations and the structure of the scene. The students were then able to perform their work for each other in a first hand experience of translation.
“What’s important for me, especially with young people, is how do they connect with it, how do they relate it to in their own life,” Reyes said. “A lot of times they don’t realize that they’re surrounded by poetry and that language is an important part of our culture.” This language, Reyes believes, is illustrated in music and hip-hop. “Who is our modern day Shakespeare? Now we have ‘Hamilton’ and Lin-Manuel Miranda. What kind of rappers do you listen to? They’re the ones who are doing work around social justice. So even if [students] don’t know plays, they have language and poetry around them, by the music they listen to and the different cultural experiences that they have.”
By understanding the universal themes that Shakespeare uses, “The Two Noble Kinsmen” becomes immediately more relatable. “It’s about being young and falling in love and being jealous, and that’s why it’s lasted so long and is still valid today,” Reyes said. “[Shakespeare] embraced the theatricality of anger or love or fear and wanted to show that onstage. And we don’t get to see that in our daily lives. Like the moment you fall in love. You don’t necessarily get to witness that…So to see that live on stage is breathtaking.”
Reyes also stated that this particular play relates to young people because it is about people who have limited life experience. “The soldiers, they’ve had experience in war, so they’re experienced in terms of that, but they have very little experience in terms of love,” he said. “That personality and that circumstance meeting something like love for the first time is an explosive combination.”
Even though the words may not belong directly to Shakespeare, the themes and ideas still ring true. The translation of “The Two Noble Kinsmen,” written by Slover and directed by Reyes, opens in the Department of Theatre this April.