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Summer 2003
Will Power
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Imagine you live in a world where everyone's agreed to say something in the most exquisite way possible," says Visiting Professor Milan Dragicevich. That is the world of Shakespeare.

So Dickey has come up with another way to get students thinking about Shakespeare, by illuminating the plays through an "almost Brechtian alienation effect" — also known as "movie night." Each year Dickey produces the "Shakespeare Offshoot Film Festival," during which he shows five films that are based, adapted, plagiarized or otherwise connected to Shakespeare's work — but are not Shakespeare. This year's films included Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa's reimagining of Macbeth set in feudal Japan; a 1947 Hollywood film noir, A Double Life, in which Ronald Colman plays a bad actor playing Othello; and McLintock!, a "terrifying" version of The Taming of the Shrew set in the wild West, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

Dickey, who swears he doesn't even like movies, says "the films are enjoyable to watch, but [watching them] is essentially a pretext for the group to think about the plays they're based on."

RAFE ESQUITH '81 engages in similar discussions with his students: "Henry IV is about a young man trying to live honorably in a dishonorable world. Who wouldn't relate to that?" But unlike Dickey's students, Esquith's are 10 and 11 years old. A UCLA School of Education alum, Esquith has taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 20 years, all but two of them at Hobart Boulevard Elementary.

Ninety-two percent of the pupils at Hobart come from families with incomes below the poverty line, and 100 percent of them speak English as a second language. But in Esquith's class, language is not a barrier to performing a full-length Shakespeare play each year. They call themselves the Hobart Shakespeareans, and their work has made fans of folks as diverse as Oprah Winfrey, who honored Esquith and the Shakespeareans with her "Use Your Life Award" in 2001, and British actor Ian McKellen, who rearranged his shooting schedule as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy in order to fly from New Zealand to Los Angeles to see the group's performance of King Lear.

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