Senior Theatre Major Xavier Heipp and Dr. Yuko Kurahashi
Xavier Heipp, a senior theatre major, is working under the mentorship of Dr. Yuko Kurahashi, Ph.D., to research and author an open-resource book on Shakespeare. He is completing this research through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program, an eight-week summer program designed to allow students to build skills in critical thinking, research, communication, and problem solving by engaging in faculty-supervised research.
The book in question is designed to be an open resource for teachers and students which covers five of Shakespeare’s plays. These plays include three tragedies, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and King Lear; and two comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The book also contains information on Shakespeare’s life, current Shakespearean contemporaries, themes throughout his works, and information on 18th- and 19th-century drama.
They chose these five plays for analysis as they were the most frequently studied throughout high school. The analysis of each play contains vocabulary, scene breakdowns, discussion questions, famous stagings, and adaptations outside of theatre. They devoted one week of the SURE program to researching each of the plays and compiling information for the book. They are currently editing the book and are hoping to publish it by the end of the school year.
Xavier’s interest in Shakespeare stems from reading Shakespearean plays in high school and participating in his high school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “[Participating in] this play cemented my investment in Shakespeare, as I realized that there is so much more to it than words,” said Xavier. He also says he remembers “being the only kid excited to read it because I was one of the few people who could actually understand it.” These experiences have led to his desire to create a resource book which would allow more teachers and students to better understand Shakespeare’s works.
Xavier and Dr. Yuko Kurahashi’s work together started when Xavier was the student dramaturg, a person who researches the art and composition of theatrical works, during Kent State University’s production of Much Ado About Nothing in the 2021-2022 school year. Since the play’s production, Xavier and Dr. Yuko Kurahashi have continued working together through the SURE 2022 program to create this open-resource book.
As part of the SURE program, Xavier also participated in the 3 Minute Presentations in October and won the first-place award for his group. As he describes his process in preparing for the 3 Minute Presentations, he describes how he was crafting a story strung together with jokes to draw the audience in through a performance-like presentation. “I did not know what it would get me, but it paid off because people were so invested as I was telling it, that it actually worked,” said Xavier.
This research project also influenced Xavier’s capstone project for his theatre degree, enabling him to write a sequel to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is writing this sequel using many of the same styles characteristic to Shakespeare’s plays including a five-act structure, iambic pentameter, and early Modern English.
Xavier encourages all students to consider participating in student research opportunities. “A lot of people either do not know what their major could do for research or do not know what they want to research. I will promise you, any major can do any kind of research,” explained Xavier. “Something you will find here at college is you are supposed to learn, and as you learn and start asking questions, you start thinking about how things can be improved. As your time here is spent, you will start to develop questions, which are the starting point of the research you could be doing.”
Xavier continued, “If you have an idea for something, just go for it. Do not feel that your idea cannot be done…. If you put in that time and effort into what you want to study, you will be able to create something truly incredible.”
Written by: Griffin Wold