Harvey Mudd students are known for their love of science and math, so it may come as a surprise that one of the most popular courses at the College is Lit 110: Shakespeare, a class that culminates in a live stage production of one of the bard’s works.
The annual Shakespeare play, a hallowed end-of-the-semester tradition, is held each spring during Alumni Weekend for all members of the College community.
This year’s play, Romeo and Juliet, was the first to be performed in the courtyard of the new R. Michael Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning. For over 20 years, the event was staged in the outdoor courtyard of Thomas-Garrett Hall, a space chosen by the course’s creator, Professor of Literature Jeffrey Groves, because it reminded him of an Elizabethan amphitheater. With its second-story balconies framing a grassy courtyard on three sides, the space allowed students to imagine Shakespeare’s original playing conditions.
The annual performance became such a beloved tradition at the College that when the R. Michael Shanahan Center was built on the site of Thomas-Garrett Hall, the new building’s sunken courtyard was specifically designed with the Shakespeare event in mind. The open-air amphitheater seats more than 200 on the steps and three levels of tiered walkways overlook the stage.
This year, visiting Assistant Professor of Literature Ambereen Dadabhoy assumed instructional duties for Lit 110 while Jeff Groves serves as dean of the faculty.
Despite being new to the Mudd producer’s seat, Dadabhoy wasn’t intimidated by tradition, leading a fresh take on Romeo and Juliet that included 1920s flapper regalia and modern vernacular asides. She credits the production’s success to a strong, cohesive cast, many of whom had no previous theater experience.
“This is where the collaborative culture of Harvey Mudd is so valuable,” said Dadabhoy. “Students are used to working together and helping one another, and that translates perfectly to the work we do in this course.”