English actor Tim Hardy was in residency at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis for a week in late March where he gave lectures on making Shakespeare fresh for contemporary audiences and performed a one-man play, Galileo, which depicted the astronomer’s trial for heresy in 1633.
Hardy’s long career includes roles on stage, screen, and TV, along with stints as a director, and he is a faculty member of the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Hardy also visited the IU Bloomington campus one afternoon, where he spoke to an audience of about 100 students, many in the acting program, at the Well/Metz Theatre.
Speaking in a deep, resonant voice and looking younger than his seventy years, he engrossed the audience with anecdotes about his life in the theater.
“For whatever set of reasons, I need I need to act,” Hardy intoned.
“I need to stand on stage-terrifying though it still is, and say ‘I want for the next two hours, for you to look at me.’”
While at IUPUI, Hardy gave a talk called, “Reinventing Shakespeare for the 21st Century: Keeping the Bard Relevant on Stage, on Page, and in Film.”
For the students at the Wells/Metz, he related an incident that taught him an important lesson on just how to accomplish that.
It occurred while he was performing in the Rossini Cenerentola opera in Vienna, which incorporated some daring elements.
One involved casting men in singing parts meant for women-with one of the men wearing a bikini.
The traditional Viennese audience seemed to be shocked.
“I thought we were going to be absolutely destroyed by the Viennese critics,” Hardy said.
“Because we were so bold, and truthful, and raw in the telling of our story.”
But to Hardy’s surprise, the critics gave the opera glowing reviews, and he learned the lesson that reinvention came not from “fancy ideas plunked on the script and tear it apart,” but from “a truthful re-celebration” of the text.
“All the critics talked about how we were ‘re-celebrating the spirit of Rossini.’”
Hardy’s residency was arranged by Associate Professor Terri Bourus, director of IUPUI’s Center of the Study of Early Modern Drama.
She was pleased with the enthusiastic response Galileo received from a cross-section of students and faculty, including those of the theater, history, and science departments.
“Watching Galileo brings a new kind of life and dimension to the discoveries of Galileo,” she said.
“Now it’s not just on the page, it’s on the stage. It brings a new kind of meaning to a sometimes difficult to understand process of discovery.”
This year is the four hundredth year anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope to explore the night sky, and astronomers worldwide are celebrating 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy.
IU is celebrating the anniversary with three months of events that include a statewide contest for high school students, a public lecture series, and an open house at the Kirkwood Observatory on April first.