To be, or not to be? Senior English students experience Shakespeare

Poyner and Sirmons' classes outside the Hippodrome State Theatre (Photo: Philipson).

Poyner and Sirmons’ classes pose outside the Hippodrome State Theatre (Photo: Philipson).

Jazzy Philipson, Staff Writer – Tuesday, April 25, three senior English classes took a field trip to see a modern rendition of the Shakespeare play Hamlet, performed at the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Florida.

Joshua Sirmons’ Advanced Placement [AP] Literature class and two of Dr. Jennifer Poyner’s English four classes attended the play. The teachers took different approaches on teaching their classes about Hamlet, as Sirmons’ class had read the play beforehand, whereas Poyner’s had read a different Shakespeare work.

“I thought it was a very good production,” said Poyner. “However, my favorite part wasn’t the play itself. It was watching my students’ reactions as they saw Shakespeare come to life.”

Poyner stated that the Hippodrome’s production effectively related to her students in that it incorporated many modern elements, despite utilizing the original dialogue.

“I thought the modern rendition made it very relatable to high school students,” said Poyner. “I almost wish there would’ve been more. Sometimes it seemed like the modern elements were forced. If there’d been even more, it would’ve been more consistent and flowed a bit better.”

Senior Breanna Schoonover attended the play with Poyner’s class and was excited to see the play, as she is a big fan of Shakespeare’s work. In fact, she still favors the original after the field trip.

The students waiting for the production of Hamlet to start (Photo: Philipson).

The students wait for the production of Hamlet to start (Photo: Philipson).

“I would prefer the classic just because the modern version left out a lot of things and focused on certain parts that the original didn’t,” said Schoonover. “Still, a good play. There was a cabbage, some vaping, and some Lady Gaga. Some things you wouldn’t expect to see in Hamlet.”

Senior Taylor Gunnell is in Sirmons’ AP Literature class and read Hamlet before attending the play. According to Gunnell, watching the play made the story easier for many of the students to comprehend, as the original play itself was a bit of a challenge.

“I think that with this version it was easier to understand the points they were trying to get across,” said Gunnell. “They [the actors] did a really good job with the tone of the words. You knew what they meant by the way they spoke. When you read it, it’s all up to you to figure out what’s going on.”

Being that Sirmons could not attend the play with his class, cheerleading coach Lynee McKinney chaperoned during the Hippodrome trip. McKinney had no exposure to Hamlet prior to the field trip.

“I had no idea what Hamlet was about,” said McKinney. “I just wanted to go on a field trip. I thought it was awesome! I thought they did a good job of incorporating some modern things in it.”