Students bring Shakespeare to GW

Patrick Hanley had a desire to see Shakespeare’s “Henry V” – the play about good “Prince Hal” coming of age – but there were no Shakespeare companies on campus.

So he created his own.

Hanley, along with Dan Harris, co-founded what is now the GW Shakespeare Company with no funding and no resources.

“It was kind of an on-the-fly decision as in, ‘Hey, I’d like to see ‘Henry V’ on campus, so let’s start a theater company,'” Hanley said.

One year later, GW Shakespeare is preparing to put on its third performance. Tommy deVries, GW Shakespeare’s executive producer, said the company has seen growth both internally as well as in overall popularity on campus. The junior said interest in the company continues to rise with each performance as more students come out for auditions.

Hanley attributes GW Shakespeare’s rising popularity to the style and creative freedom the company offers students.

“GW Shakespeare is a place where we accept risks, we take gambles,” Hanley said. “The ambitious nature of the company allows creative and driven students to see their vision come to fruition on stage.”

He adds one of the biggest draws of the company is its ability to let students “take Shakespeare out of the classroom and onto the campus.”

“I want GW Shakespeare to be a massive flair on this campus. We’re looking for people who say, ‘Hey I like Shakespeare, I used to act, let me try out for the show.’ My goal is to continue to legitimize this company so that we become that big flair, so that people say, ‘Hey, let me give this a shot,’ ” deVries said.

Both deVries and Hanley agree it was during their first production of “Henry V” when they really saw what the company was made of and what it could become. Funding has always been limited, but deVries believes GW Shakespeare has been able to make the best out of its financial situation.

“Two words: minimalist stage,” deVries said. “It sprang out of necessity but we ran with it and it worked really well. We were able to work with that minimalism and at the same time it saved you a lot of money and at the same it was exactly what Shakespeare did.”

GW Shakespeare Company hopes to solidify its position on campus this spring with its upcoming production of “Richard III,” which director Patrick Hanley admits is “a radical interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s darkest plays.”

DeVries hopes to provide Hanley with the tools his creative vision needs to make the company a campus pillar.

“My goal for ‘Richard III’ is to make this the explosion,” deVries said. ” ‘Henry’ got us here, ‘Caesar’ kept us here and ‘Richard’ will be the explosion in the sky that’ll keep us here. It will be this show that will define us.”

Auditions will be held from Feb. 27 to March 1 in the Marvin Center and the production will open Apr. 28 at the Lisner Downstage.

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