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'Beats of the Heart'

Does the name "William Shakespeare" conjure up bad memories of high school where you were forced to read "Hamlet" and "Macbeth" and "Romeo and Juliet?" Did the difficult -to-understand language leave you sighing, crying or in exasperated teen angst, either buying the Cliff Notes or renting the movies instead?

Petaluma Readers Theatre is hoping to open up a whole new world of understanding for those intimidated by William Shakespeare through its latest production, "Beats of the Heart: The Sonnets, The Stories and the Telling."

The production features 11 of Shakespeare's sonnets with essays and playlets inspired by them — designed to give a modern interpretation of the material.

"What we have is an actor reading the sonnet and then an essay inspired by it is read, or several people perform a playlet, also inspired by it," said director Elaine Silver. "Then the actor reads the sonnet again. What's great is that when you hear the sonnet a second time, you receive something you didn't get before."

The essays and playlets in "Beats of the Heart" were written by Silver and members of Petaluma Readers Theatre. Silver, whose has an acting background specifically in Shakespeare's works, felt that offering modern responses to the sonnets would be a great way to help people better understand Shakespeare.

"For me, It's such a shame that for many people there's this barrier between them and Shakespeares's writing, which is not how we speak anymore. You have to know how to listen to the language, which really is magnificent and beautiful. The second reason for creating &‘Beats of the Heart' is that Shakespare is able to capture human passion and feeling — the very esence of what makes us human. He is able to capture that in every single one of his works."

Silver said for "Beats of the Heart" they decided to focus on his sonnets because much of what is expressed in them is relevant today.

"Even 500 years later, we're still the same essential beings in our magnifigance and our struggles. We're the same," she said.

In addition to Silver, the production stars readers Terry Kolkey, Jennifer March, Leslie Scatchard and John Ton.

"My hope is for people to walk away from this saying they never understood Shakespeare like they did after today," said Silver. "And I believe they will."


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