Shakespeare’s Birthday is more than an excuse for theater companies to have a party. It’s also a chance to turn a legitimate celebration into an experience for audiences and patrons, and while it may not yet be an international or nationally recognized holiday, it has achieved something of an official holiday status in at least one state.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has designated Monday, April 23, as “Talk Like Shakespeare Day.” The Nebraska Shakespeare Festival is jumping on that bandwagon with tips for “speaking the speech” on its website and scheduling a Shakespeare Flash Mob event at noon for participants to “sing like Shakespeare” to the tune of the Beatle’s “With a Little Help from My Friends.” The company is also sponsoring a contest, “How art thou celebrating April 23?” inviting people to submit a story, photo, or video demonstrating their own particular way of honoring the Bard’s B-day. Check out their website at www.nebraskashakespeare.com for more information on these festivities.
The Long Beach Shakespeare Company in California planned a month’s-worth celebration. Three actresses (rather than three men) will be performing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), concluding with a performance on Sunday, April 22. On the big day itself, April 23, LBSC Artistic Director Helen Borgers, who is also a disc jockey at KKJZ, will read assorted Shakespeare sonnets and speeches, with commentary and asides thrown in. Over the weekend of April 27–28, the company will produce a live webcast of three new short radio plays inspired by Shakespeare plays in a program collectively called “’Speared, Shaken and Stirred,” along with an Old Time Radio play starring Vincent Price as Shakespeare. For tickets to these events and more information, go to www.lbshakespeare.org.
The Folger Library in Washington, D.C., has scheduled its annual Shakespeare birthday bash for Sunday, April 22. During Shakespeare’s Birthday Open House, children and adults can participate in free crafts and activities, take to the Folger stage for spontaneous Shakespeare performances, and explore the Folger's historic building. During the closing festivities, all are welcome to share birthday cake on the front lawn. Details are at http://www.folger.edu.
The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va., set its annual Shakespeare birthday party a day early, too. After the conclusion of A Midsummer Night’s Dream matinee performance April 22, the doors to the Blackfriars Playhouse will reopen at 4:30 p.m. for a birthday celebration featuring music, door prizes, and games for the entire family, plus a huge birthday cake. Like all good birthday parties, there is no admission fee. More details are at www.americanshakespearecenter.com.
April 19, 2012