Student Serves as Actor, Co-Director, and Writer for Senior Project
BETHANY, W.Va. – It is not unusual for a theatre major to write, direct, or act in a play as a senior project at Bethany College; it’s not even unheard of for such a student to tackle Shakespeare.
Bethany senior, Aidan Morgan, 21, thought for the past three years that he would be doing a one-man show for his senior project. That changed after he took a class in dramatic literature last spring. Now he is tackling at least 10 different Shakespearean plays in his compilation “Love and Struggle in Shakespeare,” a full-length show in which he serves as actor, co-director, and in part, playwright.
“I didn’t really get into Shakespeare until I took the dramatic literature class,” Morgan said.
Bonnie Monte, artistic director at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey and a 1976 graduate of Bethany, taught the dramatic literature class, along Bethany alumni David Joliffe, ’74 and Mark Phillip Stevenson,’73. That class led to a summer internship with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, an opportunity Morgan said he is planning to repeat next summer, following his graduation.
Morgan is taking his first playwriting class this fall, but has already put together his own show, or at least the transitions between scenes from numerous Shakespearean plays, over the summer.
“I officially started on this last June while I was doing my internship at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey,” Morgan said. “It’s just weird that it still speaks to people today. Shakespeare was a magician with words.”
During that internship Morgan took classes and worked alongside nine other interns as well as Equity actors on a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
“It was a really great experience as an actor,” Morgan said.
Morgan said he worked with his advisor, adjunct professor Evan Osland, to select the scenes and monologues for the show.
“I wanted to pick out scenes that dealt with love and struggle. I wanted to do scenes that fit my own personal experience,” Morgan said. “I really wanted to challenge myself and there is no better challenge than Shakespeare.”
The writing between the scenes was also a challenge for him.
I wrote to guide the audience in the feelings Shakespeare wanted the audience to feel,” Morgan said.
He selected Prince Hal’s monologue from Henry IV, Part 1 in dedication to his father.
“My dad has Parkinson’s, so he can’t move around as much as he had. He can’t make it up from eastern Kentucky,” Morgan said.
Morgan is the son of Anthony and Brenda Morgan, of West Liberty, Ky., so the first time Morgan and his mother traveled the five hours to Bethany, they felt eerily close to home when they arrived and saw that West Liberty, W. Va., was just a few miles away.
“I wanted to get out and experience the world a little bit, even though it’s in the hills of West Virginia,” Morgan said of his choice of Bethany College for his academic career. “I originally chose Bethany because of soccer. That was my passion in high school. What kept me at Bethany was theatre.”
The college’s proximity to Pittsburgh has provided opportunities to see professional theatre productions and to audition for shows as well, Morgan said.
Morgan credits Osland with keeping his passion for theatre alive, even through restrictions on productions during the pandemic.
“He breathed life into the program and it suited me as an actor,” Morgan said.
Working on “Love and Struggle in Shakespeare ” has given Morgan an opportunity to work closely not only with Osland, but also with several other professors and alumni who are acting in the show he is directing.
“It’s always been a professional relationship. Getting to know them as actors and coworkers has been a really good experience,” Morgan said.
Osland said he provided guidance to Morgan in the early stages of his senior project, but the final production is Morgan’s effort.
“What I always like to preach to my students is to do something unique. That’s what makes doing a theatre senior project special,” Osland said. “In addition to the comprehensive exams, it really is the keystone of the senior year. It really lets them take the lead as actors and directors. It really is a way of showcasing all of their talents.”
Osland said the Bethany theatre program goes beyond what the audience sees on stage.
“The benefits of working in a small department, everyone involved can get their hands on every single part of theatre. It makes them more well-rounded students and it makes them better prepared for the workforce knowing what goes on with all sides of a production. It’s really important to build a family there and be inclusive and make everyone feel at home in the theatre community,” Osland said.
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