As we commemorate the 452nd anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and the 400th anniversary of his exit from the stage he immortalized, we're enjoying a series of enticing conversations at the National Arts Club with Ralph Alan Cohen of the American Shakespeare Center (Monday, April 18), Kiernan Ryan of the University of London (Monday, May 23), and Peter Holland of the University of Notre Dame (Monday, June 20).
Meanwhile it's a pleasure to join the Santa Fe Opera Guild for a 5:30 p.m. program on Tuesday, May 10, that will preview this summer's special presentation of Charles Gounod's Romeo et Juliette.
One of our recent programs, on Monday, March 28, at the National Arts Club in New York, featured Karin Coonrod, an acclaimed director who talked about a July production of "The Merchant of Venue" to be presented in the city where Shakespeare set his gripping tragicoomedy. For information about this event, see David Laskin's article about the Venetian Ghetto in the New York Times.
We had to postpone two engagements that ware on the National Arts Club calendar for January (with the Folger's Janet Alexander Griffin) and for March (with the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik). But we enjoyed a Washington luncheon on Tuesday, February 23, with Diana Owen, director of the Shakespeare Trust, and a Manhattan gathering the next evening at the NAC with Peggy O'Brien.
To mark "Shakespeare 400," a global commemoration of the playwright's life and legacy, we've been offering a variety of attractions, not only in New York but in Santa Fe and Washington. Several have focusd on the Folger Shakespeare Library, which is marking the occasion with a national tour of First Folios from its incomparable holdings. For background on this generous initaitive, which was previewed on NPR by Susan Stamberg, visit the website of Albuquerque station KUNM, where you'll find several links of interest, among them one that will permit you to hear Spencer Beckwith's conversation with Mary Kershaw, director of the New Mexico Museum of Art, and Guild president John Andrews. Among the dozens of activities in La Tierra Encantada that reinforced the Folio exhibition in February were two that involved the Shakespeare Guild. The first, on Sunday, January 31, at the Lensic Performaning Arts Center, was "Ever the Twain," a revel about Shakespeare in Mark Twain's America that Craig Smith described in the Santa Fe New Nexican's Pasatiempo supplement. It played to an enthusiastic, sold-out house, and photographic highlights of it were captured by Steve Rudnick, whose wife Lois co-wrote the script with Jonathan Richards. A second Guild-related event, on Friday, February 19, at the St. Francis Auditorium, was a discussion with biographer Stephen H. Grant about how the world's largest repository of Shakespeare folios ended up on Capitol Hill. For background on that event and on several related offerings, including Thomas Leech's charming display about "Willy the Kid" at the historic Governor's Palace, visit KSFR's "Santa Fe Radio Cafe" and listen to Mary-Charlotte's program for February 17. And for a leading critic's perspective on an eventful month in La Tierra Encantada, see James Keller's remarks in Pasatiempo.
In October we were in London's venerable Guildhall for a Gielgud ceremony that took place in conjunction with a gala UK Theatre Awards luncheon on Sunday, Octover 18. This year's trophy went to Dame Eileen Atkins, an artist whose versatility both as an acclaimed performer and as a gifted scriptwriter has become legendary. Presenting the 2015 Gielgud Award was our 2008 honoree, Sir Patrick Stewart, and among the many things that made the occasion special was the fact that it occurred only three days after the 94th birthday of a visionary leader who estasblished Actors From The London Stage, an influential educational program with which Sir Patrick has been associated from the outset. AFTLS is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, and the Guild saluted this milestone with a special tribute, not only to a highly influential initiative and its founder, Professor Homer "Murph" Swander (center, at a 1998 London reception with John Andrews and Sir Derek Jacobi), but to everyone who has been involved with the outreach it represents, among them such dedicated administrators as Alan and Cynthia Dessen, Peter Holland, Scott Jackson, and actress Eunice Roberts (pictured here in a Matt Humphrey photograph with Sir Patrick Stewart and the Guild's John Andrews).
We opened the Guild's 2015-16 SPEAKING OF SHAKESPEARE season on Wednesday, September 23, with eminent critic John Lahr, who joined us at the Hill Center in Washington for a conversation that focused on two volumes, Joy Ride (his latest anthology of New Yorker profiles) and the paperback edition of Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, his award-winning biography of Tennessee Williams. A few days later, on Monday, September 28, we were at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park with Marc Baron, an actor, singer, and director who talked about The Lambs, a club which was founded in 1874 and which provided a setting for the creation of several other key organizations, among them Actors' Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, and ASCAP.
On Monday, November 30, we returned to the National Arts Club in New York for a SPEAKING OF SHAKESPEARE engagement with Columbia University's James Shapiro, who introduced his long-awaited volume on the year 1606, a crucial period during which the playwright completed "Macbeth" and "King Lear" and began work on "Antony and Cleopatra." A few weeks prior to this gathering Professor Shapiro had attended "King Charles III," a fascinating Broadway hit in blank verse by British playwright Mike Bartlett, and he'd talked about its Shakespearean resonances as a "future history play" with both writer Rebecca Mead and the production's starring actor, Tim Pigott-Smith. For a charming account of that occasion, see the December 12 issue of The New Yorker.
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