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Star Wars and Shakespeare at the Wooden O Conference

The Bard Side of the Force

Author Ian Doescher has “translated” five of the six Stars Wars episodes into iambic pentameter and Shakespearean English. As part of the Wooden O Conference at Southern Utah University, he will do a book signing and deliver the keynote address today, August 3.

For the book signing, he will be at the Gift Shop in the Randall L. Jones Theatre from 12:30pm to 2pm. He’ll be signing his book William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, which you can purchase there.

At 5pm you can attend his keynote address in the Great Hall in the Hunter Conference Center on the SUU campus. Tickets are only $5 and can be purchased in advance at www.bard.org or at the door.

During this keynote, entitled  “The Bard Side of the Force”, he will discuss the process of taking Shakespeare on a journey to a galaxy far, far away. From the genesis of the idea to deciding how to make characters like Yoda and Jar Jar Binks true to the Bard, he will share his journey. Along the way, he’ll tell us why he thinks students might find Star Wars to be the perfect entry point into Shakespeare’s plays.

Ian Doescher is the author of the William Shakespeare’s Star Warsseries.  He has loved Shakespeare since eighth grade and was born 45 days after Star Wars Episode IV was released. Ian has a B.A. in Music from Yale University, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in Ethics from Union Theological Seminary. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife Jennifer and two sons. 

We had a chance to ask Ian a couple of questions.

Who tend to be your fans? Star Wars fans? Shakespeare fans? Scholars?

The biggest group is Star Wars fans, who have embraced the books and have been very kind.  Shakespeare fans are next, followed by teachers and theater people.  A small number of people from these groups find bones to pick with what I’ve written, but by and large the reception to the books has been really positive.  The Star Wars fans enjoy the books because they deepen the stories of their favorite characters, Shakespeare fans like projects that make the Bard relevant and current again, teachers appreciate what the books can do for their students, and theater folks enjoy thinking about how it could be performed.

Why should non-scholars come to your keynote?

Let’s be clear: I myself am not a Shakespeare scholar.  I’m a person who loves the works of Shakespeare, has enjoyed reading Shakespeare, seeing the plays, watching the films, and so on, but I have had relatively little formal training in Shakespeare.  When I talk about my books, therefore, I’m not approaching Shakespeare from an academic’s standpoint, but from a fan’s standpoint.  Non-scholars will enjoy the keynote, I hope, because I’ll be talking in a really down-to-earth way about how I came to fully express my inner nerd/geek as I wrote the books.

There are currently five books in the series, each telling a different portion of the Star Wars saga. Titles include The Empire Striketh Back and The Jedi Doth Return.

 And if you’re wondering “what is the Wooden O?” – it’s a literary and scholarly conference, sponsored by the Festival,  focused on works from medieval to early modern times i.e. the 1500s to late 1600s. Attendees are scholars who present peer-reviewed papers on topics related to this season’s plays. This year, as a co-conference, the Rocky Mountain Medieval Association will be here as well. The conference runs from August 3 – August 6. More information is available at http://www.bard.org/wooden-o-symposium/

Again, tickets to the keynote (August 3, 5pm at the Hunter Conference Center) are only $5 and can be purchased in advance at www.bard.org or at the door. The book signing will be the same day, August 3, from 12:30pm to 2pm in the Gift Shop at the Randall L. Jones Theatre. Hope to see you there.


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