The senior thesis is emblematic of the kind of intellectual freedom Bard College at Simon’s Rock’s Upper College students are given. It is a year-long, self-designed scholarly project that is the capstone of a student’s work. It’s required of everyone. The thesis is not just an academic requirement for a Simon’s Rock Bachelor of Arts degree, it is work that adds to the world’s storehouse of knowledge.
Below are highlights from just some of this year’s 51 theses. Student Mary Weatherbee spoke with eleven students about their work. Check the Newsroom each week this summer for a new highlight report.
Abby Edber wrote, directed, and acted in her senior thesis production of The Shakespearean Heroine Society, a play written in one act starring the whole gang: Viola, Juliet, Ophelia, Cleopatra, Lady M., Titania, and Portia. Revisiting and expanding her own role as Portia in a one-woman show performed during her time studying at the London Dramatic Academy, Abby challenges our ideas of heroism (or heroine-ism) in Shakespeare’s plays. By juxtaposing the celebrated and acclaimed women of Shakespeare’s plays with underrated and understated Portia from The Merchant of Venice in a lively and clever debate of heroic worthiness and character, Abby invites us to ask ourselves questions she asked herself as she crafted this play: Why do I accept Juliet –for example – as heroine? What makes our most loved and acclaimed Shakespearean heroines so heroic? And… what about Portia?
Abby’s unique and compassionate portrayal of the character Portia, the heroine known for her wit and eloquence, draws her audience in and shows us why she believes in Portia’s heroism and why we should, too. Unlike the others in the Shakespearean Heroine Society, Portia doesn’t expect or want praise. An understated heroine – even Portia’s ability to, disguised as a court lawyer, save Antonio (a man, no less) gains her no respect from the other distinguished ladies in Abby’s Shakespearean Heroine Society – Portia exemplifies acting morally for the sake of acting morally not for the sake of outside praise. Portia, Abby argues, teaches us the importance of inner satisfaction above all external approval.
Currently interning at the Mahaiwe Theater in Great Barrington and at the Berkshire Playwright Lab, Abby plans to move to Brooklyn in the coming year. She also plans to continue her education and pursue an M.F.A. degree in Theater.