Sam White

Sam White

Recent visits to the Utah Shakespeare Festival by two notable figures in the theatre and literary worlds have at least one thing in common. Both Sam White, founder and executive director of Shakespeare in Detroit, and Ian Doescher, author of the popular William Shakespeare’s Star Wars books, cite attending Shakespeare festivals as inspiration for their work. 

According to Sam White, it was performances at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in 2008 that inspired her to create an organization to bring Shakespeare to Detroit. While returning to her then home of Las Vegas, White thought, "If they can have a festival in the middle of the desert, we can have Shakespeare in Detroit.”

It took years of perseverance, but in 2013 White produced and directed a performance of Othello in Detroit’s Grand Circus Park. Seven productions later, after performing in non-traditional venues scattered across the city, Shakespeare in Detroit is launching another season aimed at bringing Shakespeare to the locations in Detroit where people already go.

White’s love of the Bard and Detroit push her to give Shakespeare to the people of Detroit. “If there is any city in the world that can relate to Shakespeare, it’s Detroit because of what we’ve been through and what we’re going through,” she said. “There’s comedy, tragedy, and pain.”

White spoke to several groups during her most recent visit to Cedar City as part of the Statera Foundation Conference. More information about White’s story is available at http://www.shakespeareindetroit.com/#!our_story/c18bc.

Ian Doescher was at a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival when the idea to tell the stories of Star Wars with iambic pentameter and other Shakespearean language devices came to him. A love of both Star Wars and Shakespeare fed the project for Doescher, but he also wanted to use Shakespearean language and references for another purpose.

"I do hope that these books can be a bridge into Shakespeare for kids,” he said. “My books get them used to the feel of the language so that hopefully when they open up real Shakespeare, it’s not as big of a leap.” Rhymed couplets, iambic pentameter, soliloquies, and character asides to the audience are found throughout the five books of the series, with a sixth due out this fall.

Shakespeare references also provide hidden gems for those more familiar with the works of the Bard. For example, in The Empire Striketh Back, much of the witty banter between Han and Leia references banter between some of Shakespeare’s famous couples: Beatrice and Benedict, Romeo and Juliet, and others.

Fans of Shakespeare, Star Wars, and Doescher’s work itself attended Doescher’s keynote address at the Wooden O Symposium, hosted by the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University. More information about Doescher’s work is available at http://www.quirkbooks.com/shakespearestarwars.