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Nancy Hayes, SAU Theatre: A Perfect Match

two women with puppets

SAU Library Director Mary Heinzman (left) and English professor Nancy Hayes, PhD, perform a puppet theatre.

March 2017


Nancy Hayes is a Professor of English here at St. Ambrose University. However, that title does not begin to cover all of the work Dr. Hayes does for the university. Last April marked the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. On April 22, 2016, the day before the anniversary, St. Ambrose kicked off our year of Shakespeare. This was a huge celebration in the Beehive with acted scenes from Shakespeare plays. Local high school students performed a song from Kiss Me Kate. Finishing things off was a flash mob pavane. Students were given cake, but not until after they recited one of Shakespeare's famous sonnets. Dr. Hayes was the main inspiration behind this celebration, and of course, it seems as if she hasn't taken off her Shakespeare pin since.

Over the summer, Dr. Hayes helped create a complete yearlong series filled with classes, performances, and lectures all created to celebrate his legacy. Last semester, she was involved in many Shakespeare events: a film series of Monday night Shakespeare with Sister Joan; a Shakespeare-themed Casual Classics Concert; lectures on Shakespeare's works; Shakespearian Field Day; and bringing Shakespeare to Social Justice at the annual St. Ambrose Women for Social Justice Conference, just to name a few.

Just this last fall, Dr. Hayes also helped the SAU Theatre Department with their performance of William Shakespeare's The Tempest. She worked tirelessly to make what is usually a three-hour production into a 90-minute play. She served as a dramaturg along with senior Nick Pearce to help cut the play down. The two managed to keep the important message of the play and give the audience a great story despite the many cuts to the script. This was not an easy feat.

"Nancy was one of the driving forces behind the success of the play," Pearce said. "Without her guidance, we couldn't have put together the production that we did."

Both received a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Certificate of Merit for Production Dramaturgy.

During the same semester, Dr. Hayes helped organize Shakespeare & Justice, an event on Sept. 27 that explored how Shakespeare can teach social justice in our own community and around the world. Ambrose for Social Justice presented it, and the conference included a special presentation from the organization Shakespeare Behind Bars, which featured their documentary about the process of using Shakespeare as a therapeutic practice for inmates.

Just this past month, Dr. Hayes helped to present a Shakespeare Field Day. The field day included a student roundtable, Understanding Hallucinations in Shakespeare's Macbeth, Shakespeare and Intersections, Shakespeare and Leadership, Star Crossed Lovers and Songs of Shakespeare. The week finished with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised), directed by Brent Tubbs.

Dr. Hayes also presented a lecture this week, Romancing the Bard: Learning about Shakespeare's Secret Love and the Beginning of Modern Feminism. Stuart Diamond, a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, and Daniel Rairdin-Hale '04 were co-presenters. Her work was largely based on the words of William Shakespeare, Amelia Lanyer, and Stuart Diamond from The Dark Lady Reflections.

Dr. Hayes has such a passion for Shakespeare that she can make those who do not express the same interest, suddenly be immensely interested. She has loved Shakespeare for most of her life. When she was 12, her father took all five children to England for three weeks. She saw two Shakespeare plays: As You Like It, and Much Ado About Nothing. She visited Stratford Upon Avon and Westminster. At that young age, she decided she wanted to be an English major. She studied Advanced Placement English and British Literature in high school. In college, she took Shakespeare classes and loved the Renaissance. She continued to read his works and see his shows.

"Shakespeare's language captures the complete spectrum of human experience," she says, "After 400 years, the plays can be so alive and responsive to the audience." One of her favorite Shakespeare plays is King Lear because of its compassion and exploration of change. She loves that all of his characters are very human, even the evil ones. They are all flawed. What does she love most about Shakespeare? "His powerful understanding of human nature."

We are very excited to see what is in store next for Dr. Hayes. In April, the St. Ambrose Theatre Department will produce Richard III led by guest director, Ron Clark. Dr. Hayes has helped each of the cast members understand their roles and the script. She is a true talent and a treasure to work with. St. Ambrose is incredibly lucky to have her.

MORE LIKE THIS:Faculty & Staff News/Achievements, Theatre Newsletter

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