By Sylvie Scowcroft ’14
Upon entering the Cornerstone Arts Center, one is confronted with a nearly 20-foot high chalkboard wall filled words and phrases commonly used today. The hand-written chalk installation features many of the more than 1,700 words and phrases coined by Shakespeare. Many of the words on the board were already in existence; Shakespeare just used them in a new way. CC Associate Drama Professor Andrew Manley, who is responsible for this installation, has a theory that since Shakespeare wrote purely in iambic pentameter, he often had to get creative with his phrasing.
Manley has filled smaller chalkboards with Shakespeare before and was looking for an opportunity to do it again because in his eyes the words of Shakespeare are the perfect thing to fill the space. “It is a big board and therefore needs something big to fill it. The sheer size of the chalkboards reflects Shakespeare’s monumental contribution to the English language. His words are such a strong foundation to drama and language that it seems only fitting to place them in the front of our performing arts center,” Manley said.
Cornerstone is largely a drama building, so Manley likes the image of Shakespeare’s words going right up the core into the building. Toward the end of last year there seemed to be a lull in the use of the boards, so he decided the time was ripe. One side of the wall features words; the other side features phrases.
The process of installing this project was a pleasant one for Manley. The most difficult part of using the chalkboards is always cleaning off whatever was there beforehand. It him took a good deal of time and at least two washes to completely erase any trace of previous chalk. Once that was completed he got up on his big orange scissor lift and just started writing. It took three hours, but once he got going he entered into a meditative state. According to Manley, there was a peacefulness and state of Zen that came from all of that writing. It “took [him] into a world of words,” which he rather enjoyed.
Before starting the actual writing process, Manley did very little prep work. He found a list of words and phrases on the Internet and edited out the more obscure, less interesting ones. He didn’t do anything special to ensure that the lines were straight or count how many words/phrases were going to fit on the wall. As soon as the wall was ready, he just stared writing. Luckily, he got all the way through the alphabet by the end.
Manley loves what this project does for the people entering the building. Whether they see it everyday or just once, there is always some sort of reaction. For those who come in everyday, they often like to look for a new word or phrase. There is no way to grasp the entire wall without standing still and meticulously reading. This is a perfect exhibit for a variety of people engaging the building in a variety of ways.