Ric Kirschner thinks most college courses in Shakespeare don't put enough emphasis on making Shakespeare understandable to contemporary students. So he's teaching "Making Shakespeare Come Alive," a Continuing Education class for the University of Utah that will do just that, beginning Saturday, Feb. 23, at the U.'s new Cedar Park extension, just east of I-15 at the 53rd South exit.

Kirschner, who has a master's degree in theater and who studied with the school's late Shakespeare expert David Jones, is "into" renaissance theater and is a collector of Shakespeare videos, which he uses in his class. He likes to give his students a lot of background on Elizabethan England and make direct comparisons between then and now to help them bridge the 400-year gap.For example, the allusions to magic and witchcraft in Shakespeare's plays are most often confusing to contemporary audiences.

"In 16th century England," Kirschner says, "if an owl flew overhead, it was clearly a witch on a broomstick. Magic was an integral part of peoples' everyday lives. They were also into forecasting the future - omens and portents were everywhere. Hence, the `fall of a sparrow' speech in Franco Zeffirelli's current film version of `Hamlet.' "

In the class, students will watch two or three videos of Shakespearean plays and then have a chance to interpret a scene on their own, either by acting it out or by reading it aloud or whatever they're most comfortable with, says Kirschner. He wants the class to be as nonthreatening as possible.

Who would get the most out of this class?

"Anybody who's interested in Shakespeare but has shied away because they're afraid of the language," says Kirschner, "or anybody who wants to learn a bit of trivia about the period. My ultimate thrust is to get people to say at the end of it, `So that's all there is to it? It's a lot easier than I thought.' "

"Making Shakespeare Come Alive" is offered for noncredit as Theatre 19R-60. The fee is $83. The class meets on two Saturdays (Feb. 23 and March 3) from 8:50 a.m. until 5 p.m., and on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, Feb. 26 & 27, from 7:15 until 9 p.m.

For further information or to register, call the University of Utah Continuing Education program at 581-6483.