Student Spotlight: IUPUI senior to perform in upcoming Shakespeare production

William Shakespeare is about to make another theatrical debut, thanks to IUPUI’s New Oxford Shakespeare project and its theatrical arm, Hoosier Bard.

And, once again, with the help of talented and enthusiastic students like Keegan Cooper, Hoosier Bard is making theater come to life on the IUPUI campus.

Cooper, a senior in the IU School of Liberal Arts and an award-winning English major, is looking forward to his second gig as both actor and crew member in Hoosier Bard’s fourth major Shakespeare production, “Arden of Fevershame,” opening April 3 in the Clowes Auditorium at the Indianapolis Central Library.

Cooper is a work-study student at the New Oxford Shakespeare and its theatrical arm, Hoosier Bard. He not only helped stage “Measure for Measure,” he’s now a part of the cast and crew for “Arden” under director Terri Bourus, an associate professor of English Drama at IUPUI; he considers the director-professor one of the key figures in his academic life.

“What really drew me to the project was my love for Shakespeare and the Early Modern period,” Cooper said. “I love the history, culture, world view and how this place and time affected the development of the Western literature and our modes of thinking today.”

That time period dramatically reshaped society and its views, he added.

“Shakespeare helped deepen the common man’s ideas about the human condition,” Cooper said. “He conceptualized difficult themes in easily understandable plot lines and characters. Like any good art, theater expanded minds.”

“Arden of Fevershame” focuses on the complicated authorial issues concerning Shakespeare. The first known domestic tragedy was published anonymously for over 400 years, but recently was attributed to Shakespeare based on his "digital fingerprint," recognized through stylometric processes. The use of computer technology to identify linguistic similarities and patterns that cannot be caught by the human eye is one of the great contributions of New Oxford, he believes.

Cooper plans to earn a professional editing certificate when he starts his English master’s program at IUPUI this coming fall. But he is quick to credit Bourus with her influence over his academic career, starting with a Shakespeare class he took under her.

“What a class it was!” he said. “I found myself enveloped in the time period. I never thought I could grasp such topics as the Renaissance and Reformation until I viewed them through a Shakespearean lens.” Her gift, he added, is to bring Shakespeare to life.

Working with Hoosier Bard has given Cooper an insider’s view of what it takes to stage a play like “Arden.” He works tirelessly behind the scenes (with budgeting, production, promotions and more), and then he acts with some of the finest actors in the city. Viewing a production like this “emphasizes how crucial performance is to scholarship,” Cooper added, yet another core value of the New Oxford Project.

The play will be presented in film noire style, complete with fedoras and tailored suits. At the heart of the dark comedy is classic femme fatale Alice Arden, the first major female central in Renaissance theatre. And the production will “combine the resources of IUPUI, New Oxford Shakespeare, Hoosier Bard Productions, and an outstanding ensemble featuring the stars of local theatre companies.”