Oxford grad deciphers
the Bard's funny code
Deciphering hidden meanings in a Shakespeare play is something like unlocking
the solution to a psychological puzzle. This is what intrigues Oxford sophomore
Fabio Van der Merwe. A psychology major, Fabio has acted, directed and served
as president of the Oxford Ensemble for Shakespearean Artists (OESA).
"In modern dramas the joke is right there, but in Shakespeare it
is hidden with fancy words and poetics," Van der Merwe said. "The
challenge of finding [what is hidden] attracts us."
In fact, it was this love for Shakespeare's humor and wording that inspired
OESA's founding members in 1996 to form a group to produce the Bard's work.
Originally an arm of the Drama Guild, Oxford's faculty-directed theater
group, OESA was chartered as an official organization by the Student Government
Association in the fall of 1997. During his freshman year Van der Merwe
felt compelled to audition for the nascent OESA's production of A Midsummer
Night's Dream. He landed one of the leading roles.
With Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night and abridged versions
of The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing already
under its belt, OESA presented a series of one-act plays in April. The biggest
kick for Van der Merwe is hearing audience applauded and encouraging other
students. "It's an extremely talented group," he said. "We
allow for that creative spirit."
Along with his involvement in theater, Van der Merwe was engaged in another
creative venture-he managed the Java Hut in Oxford. Open four nights a week,
the coffeehouse serves as a forum for poetry, acoustic music and chess games.
"On good nights, we've got 75 students coming in."
Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Van der Merwe has been in
the United States for six years, and he attended high school in Savannah,
Ga. He was drawn to Oxford for the closeness students can have with both
professors and peers. "I just had a one-hour conversation with one
of my professors," he said. "In some places, that is unheard of."
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