Stage Write: Theatre and English at Brown


(Pictured above: Shakespeare with a copy of The Complete Pelican Shakespeare.)

 [Sooo meta, ugh typical Shakespeare…]

Are you interested in theatre at Brown?  Whether you’re a veteran actor or a fresh newbie, you’ve come to the right place – Stage Write! I’m Olivia Cummings, first-year Shakespeare enthusiast (try to find the Shakespeare reference(s) in each blog post!), techie, and budding thespian. I’ll be writing about my experiences in the various facets of theatre life at Brown this year.   

Theatre and English (or more broadly, literature) go together like…well any two things that go together really, really well. Both at their core about words, words, words. In fact, theatre at Brown initially started as a subset of the English department.  In case you like history (and even better, obscure Brown history), the TAPS department was actually only founded in 1973, which isn’t that long ago considering Brown itself was founded in 1764.

So why, you may ask, am I talking about Theatre and English at Brown?  Well, I wrote many of my application essays on the interesting intersection between English and Theatre (and medicine, but that’s another blog post!).  And, more importantly, I’m currently taking a class that is cross-registered in the both the English and TAPS departments, entitled “Shakespeare, the Screenplays.”

Read more to learn all about it and why it’s literally (okay, figuratively) the class of my dreams.

Taught by the very personable Professor Richard Rambuss, “Shakespeare, the Screenplays” is a class based on the premise “that if Shakespeare were alive today he’d be working in Hollywood.”  We read Shakespeare plays and then watch Hollywoo movies that are either adaptations of those plays or actually movie versions of the plays.  For example, the first play assigned was The Taming of the Shrew and the movie we had to watch was Gil Junger’s 10 Things I Hate About You. Yup, you read that correctly, 10 Things I Hate About You is an contemporary adaptation (or as we say, a translation) of a Shakespeare play!

As we moved further into the class, the movies have become a bit more serious.  We read Henry IV, Part I and watched Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho and Orson Welles’ Falstaff: Chimes at Midnight.  Right now we’re up to Macbeth, which is way up there on my list of favorite Shakespeare plays, in case you were wondering.    

So why is the class so awesome?  For one, I love Shakespeare, so taking any college Shakespeare class would make me happy.  Also, even though the class is a large lecture, meaning there’s minimal time for most people to speak, it’s still great to hear the amazingly nuanced readings many of my fellow classmates have of both the plays and the films (it doesn’t hurt that many of them are upperclassmen and even grad students).  Additionally, Professor Rambuss has such an interesting perspective from which he analyzes the texts and films, which is often through the lens of male, or as he says “homosocial,” relations. The TAs, graduate students in the English departments, are super helpful and kind too.

So if you come to Brown, I would strongly recommend you take a class with Professor Rambuss. (He taught a class last year called “Hamlet.” If he offers it again I will literally (not figuratively) fight someone for a spot in it).  If you’re interesting in theatre or acting, taking a close reading class on any theatrical text would be a great benefit to you.  But any class in the English department fulfills a WRIT requirement (you must take at least two writing courses throughout your time at Brown) so why not have the time of your life in a class on Shakespeare?!


(Here’s a Happy Hamlet bouncin’ with Yorick)

As a potential Immunobiology and/or Public Health concentrator who is pre-med (PLME), I’ll approach theatre as someone who is doing it as a (very time-intensive) hobby. If you have any questions for me or would like to be connected with someone who is looking to pursue theatre after college, email me at  Looking forward to seeing you all at Brown soon!


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