Shakespeare at Winedale

Rio Grande College students Samantha Alfaro and Cynthia Olivares visit with actors performing in Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" during their trip to Winedale.—Courtesy photo

By Samantha Alfaro, RGC Student

Round Top, Texas-From Friday, July 18 to Sunday, July 20, students from Sul Ross Rio Grande College were excited when attending the annual event of Shakespeare at Winedale, a University of Texas program founded by Professor James B. Ayres dedicated to bringing Shakespeare to life through the performance of his plays.

The RGC students who attended this event were Cynthia Olivares, Samantha Alfaro and Rodolfo Rodriguez, alongside SRSU Rio Grande College professor, Dr. Don Walden.

On July18, the first play was "The Merry Wives of Windsor," which caught the students’ attention with its comedy. This play featured the character Sir John Falstaff, portrayed by senior student Brooks Naylor, who is short of money and decides to court two wealthy married women to gain financial advantage. Falstaff, with his sense of humor, silly and dramatic character, made the play enjoyable and very funny. But this couldn’t have been accomplished without the help of Mistress Quickly, portrayed by senior student Bronwyn Barnwell, with her unique acting style which made the whole audience want to see more of her in the play. “She was a real good actress, goofy and natural in her acting. She had her signature like Matthew McConaughey,” said student Rodolfo with a smile. 

On the second day, the RGC students went to see the last two plays in the schedule. The first was "Troilus and Cressida," a tragedy set during the later years of the Trojan War, which was being performed for the first time at Shakespeare at Winedale, making it the 33rd of 38 plays of Shakespeare performed by UT. The RGC students were among the first people to witness this first ever performance of Shakespeare´s tragedy which was full of battle scenes and a love story. “It is a difficult play to do, that is why it’s not done so often,” said Lucy Junker, who played a scurrilous Greek named Thersites, when asked to give her opinion about being part of the first generation to portray this play at Winedale.  The UT students definitely had a hard time with this play, as the constant battle scenes and action that this play required were not entirely fit for the small barn in which the plays were taking place. Using their wit, they managed to tackle these problems through the use of screams and battle sounds done backstage, which made the audience feel they were in the middle of a battle field.

The last play to be performed was the comedy "The Taming of the Shrew," which depicts the courtship of Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, and Katherina, the headstrong, stubborn and bad-tempered woman. This play was full of well-made costumes and hairstyles reminiscent of the Elizabethan era which made Cynthia say, “I’ll wear them.” But this play in particular made an impact on the students as they got to see one of many different interpretations of the play and the issue of submission from the main character Kate. “I had issues with the submission. She had to obey, but it was good and funny,” remarked Cynthia. This same opinion was shared by Rodolfo whose opinion was that “Kate looked scary, which made more of a challenge for Petruchio. He had to chase her more.” With these opinions in mind, the students, along with Dr. Walden, approached the student who played the role of Katherina Minola.

 She was very open and excited to be asked about the character and what she thought about it. “For me, the strongest couple is Petruchio and Kate as they are partners, they are the strongest of the three marriages in the play,” said the actress Casey Nice firmly about what she thought of whose marriage would last the longest.

Throughout the trip, the students had the opportunity to experience the beautiful landscapes that surround the town of Round Top in Fayette County, with its huge oak trees, the Colorado Lake, and its historical places and markets.

One place in particular was Royers Café, a local restaurant which delighted the RGC students and instructor with its delicious hearty foods and famous pies, giving justice to their slogan “Eat Mo’ Pie!” One could instantly notice the fame of this place by the long line of people waiting outside to get in and be welcomed by the friendly servers and have some food, or just get a slice of pie with ice cream. This restaurant provided the students with meals before and in-between the plays, and for a place to discuss the plays afterwards. The beautiful landscapes with their peaceful nature and the delicious fresh smell of pies made the trip more heartwarming and full of excitement.

At the end of the trip, the students got to know more about Shakespeare's plays, bonded with each other and compared their opinions with their professor. “Universities provide students with opportunities to expand their minds. Some have speakers coming to campus, others drama departments. The Rio Grande College providing the students with this experience is one way to do that,” said English professor Dr. Walden.

The trip left the students wanting more. “I feel interested in reading the plays, and it is a crucial necessity to know Shakespeare,” said Cynthia. “I recommend coming to see a play once in your life. It is a whole different experience,” added Rodolfo.

Shakespeare fans and those who enjoy new experiences in the countryside will enjoy Winedale, as they will learn how even today his plays remain famous and why they are still performed worldwide for everyone to enjoy.