March 3, 2019
Imagine entering a darkened, four-story-high room, where sheer curtain panels cascading from above are illuminated in pastel greens and blues and yellows and pinks. You step inside a circle of light to read the lines of poetry flickering across the panels when suddenly you hear, in a soft, disembodied voice, “Upon those boughs which shake against the cold/Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”
That immersive sight-and-sound experience — a theatrical installation called “Shakespeare’s Garden” — invited visitors to meander through the space while listening to sonnets and plays performed by Virginia Tech students. Led by the School of Performing Arts, “Shakespeare’s Garden” used the spatial-audio capabilities of the Cube, a state-of-the-art theatrical space in the Moss Arts Center.
Participating from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences were Amanda Nelson, an assistant professor of theatre, and Natasha Staley, an associate professor of voice and performance, both in the School of Performing Arts, who curated the selections from Shakespeare’s canon and directed the student actors. Charles Nichols, an assistant professor of composition and creative technologies, also in the School of Performing Arts, composed original music for the garden.
One of the installation’s five stations featured a scene from “The Merchant of Venice” recorded by Andrew Bartee, now a senior majoring in wildlife conservation, and Sara Gehl, a senior double majoring in theatre and multimedia journalism. “You pay special attention when you know that the audience won’t see you at all,” Bartee said. “I’ve never felt more responsibility to clearly tell the story before.”
The installation’s project manager, Jamie Lindsay, has since graduated with a degree in theatre arts and public relations. “‘Shakespeare’s Garden’ has been a great opportunity to take what I’ve learned from more traditional stage management and apply it to something entirely new,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful way to wrap up my experiences at Virginia Tech.”