Opening of IUPUI Campus Center Theatre and The History of Cardenio

IUPUI Campus Center Theatre
Indianapolis, Indiana
April 21, 2012

Sharing The Sense of What it is to be Human

Thank you, Dean (William) Blomquist.

The great American playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder once said: 

“I regard the theater as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”1

Tonight, as we gather to celebrate the opening of the IUPUI Campus Center Theatre and to enjoy the first complete theatrical production of Gary Taylor’s recreation of William Shakespeare and John Fletcher’s The History of Cardenio, we also celebrate the distinctive art form of theatre and, in keeping with the mission of Indiana University, we enhance our understanding of what it means to be human.

To Teach and to Please

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed it was the duty of the dramatic poet “to teach and to please” and this tradition has survived as the aim of modern theatre.

Playwrights like William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, who is best remembered for his novel, Don Quixote, but who was also a playwright, have much to teach us—even some 400 years after they lived.

So great was Cervantes’ influence on the Spanish language that the language is sometimes called la lengua de Cervantes, “the language of Cervantes.” His Don Quixote, from which the story of Cardenio is taken, is one of the foundational works of modern Western literature.

And, of course, William Shakespeare’s contributions to English literature, the English Renaissance, and the English language are beyond compare.

Literary critic Harold Bloom wrote that Shakespeare “went beyond all precedent… and invented the human as we continue to know it.2

Both Shakespeare and Cervantes have profoundly influenced modern philosophy and helped to shape our cultural history.

This remarkable production of The History of Cardenio is, in so many ways, an educational enterprise: one that will “teach and please.”

It is also a production that is made possible by cutting-edge research and scholarship.

We are very pleased to have world-renowned Shakespeare scholar, Dr. Gary Taylor, visiting the IUPUI campus. With fellow Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells, Dr. Taylor serves as general editor of The Oxford Shakespeare, the first edition of Shakespeare’s complete works to emphasize Shakespeare’s collaborative work. Four of Dr. Taylor’s other publications are included in the Random House/Modern Library list of the 100 most important books on Shakespeare.

Dr. Taylor has reconstructed the text of The History of Cardenio using sophisticated and groundbreaking scholarly techniques. The play has also been reconstructed and reimagined through theatrical workshops and staged readings. As Professor Taylor has said: “actors notice things that computers don’t.”

Through this process, the theatre has become a living laboratory for the humanities, where ideas have been put to the test and subjected to the rigors of material embodiment. In that sense, what we are witnessing tonight is both the result of much experimentation and a continuation of the process of discovery.

A Spirit of Collaboration

Theatre is also one of the most collaborative of art forms. Members of the creative team—directors, designers, actors, and technicians—have been working together since October on the production we are about to see. Tonight, we join in this collaboration as audience members. 

In an age when technology gives us near instantaneous access to almost any film or television program we might want to view, and allows us to store and view it on a device we can carry in our pocket, this production does more than entertain us.

It reminds us of the intrinsic value of live theatre, its timelessness, its power, and its immediacy. It helps to create, affirm, and sustain a sense of community, as theatre has done since the time of the great theatrical festivals of ancient Athens.

The efforts of many people have contributed not only to the production we are about to see, but also to the opening of the theatre we celebrate tonight.

I would like to particularly recognize the great energy and determination that Professor Terri Bourus has brought to this project. 

Professor Bourus, of course, directed the production we will see this evening. Since joining the faculty on the IUPUI campus in 2007 after a number of years on the faculty of the IU Kokomo campus, Professor Bourus has worked tirelessly to elevate and enhance the academic study of Shakespeare and early modern drama at IUPUI. She has also been the leading advocate for a proper stage on the campus where actors can bring Shakespeare to life.

Two years ago, Professor Bourus received the Research Frontiers Trailblazers Award, an award given to outstanding researchers on the IUPUI campus who show great promise in becoming nationally and internationally known for their accomplishments in advancing the frontiers of knowledge.

You’ll also hear more in a moment from Chancellor Charles Bantz about Professor Bourus’ exciting and important work with the New Oxford Shakespeare project.

This theatre is a tribute to her vision and leadership. 

I would also like to express thanks to Chancellor Bantz; Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Zeb Davenport; and Dean Bill Blomquist of the School of Liberal Arts for their support of this venture.

The IU Alumni Association is co-hosting tonight’s reception with the School of Liberal Arts, and also I want to thank Stefan Davis, the associate executive director of the Alumni Association for helping to make this event possible.

A Community Resource for Generations to Come

This new Campus Center Theatre will become, I am sure, an essential part of the rich cultural heritage of this community and this state. As its doors open tonight, doors between the university and the broader community are also opened, allowing us to share the remarkable talents of our faculty and students. 

The theatre is also a representation of the depth of the university’s commitment to training the next generation of scholars, performers, and artists. This new facility will help nurture their talent and build their dreams. 

It will bring to life the timeless words and ideas of the great poets and it will, as Thornton Wilder noted, enhance our understanding of what it means to be human.

Thank you.

Source Notes

  1. Thornton Wilder, 1957 interview with Richard H. Goldstone, originally published in Paris Review, 15, (Winter 1957) 37-57, reprinted in Jackson R. Bryer (ed.), Conversations with Thornton Wilder, (Univ. Press of Mississippi), 1992, 72.
  2. Harold Bloom, Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human, (New York: Riverhead Books, 1998).