Speaking of Shakespeare Link

Speaking of Shakespeare
At the moment we're focused on attractions that will commemorate Shakespeare's 455th birthday. The first of these will be a 2 p.m. Salon on Tuesday, April 23, at the National Arts Club with filmmaker Melinda Hall, who'll talk about the fascinating interviews she's recorded with stars such as F. Murray Abraham, Cicely Berry, Stacy Keach, Sir Ben Kingsley, Estelle Parsons, and Liev Schreiber for a remarkable YouTube series called How Shakespeare Changed My Life. A few hours later we'll move next door to The Players for a 7 p.m. presentation of Ever the Twain: William Shakespeare in Mark Twain's America, drawing on a script that has been presented twice at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. The following day, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, we'll enjoy a delightful overview about The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey with Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte.

Looking ahead, we're pleased to announce that F. Murray Abraham will be our guest for a National Arts Club gathering at 8 p.m. Monday, May 13. Best known for the Academy Award he earned for his portrayal of Antonio Salieri in the film version of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, Mr. Abraham has won a new generation of admirers as Dar Adal on Showtime's remarkable Homeland series. In 2010 the Guild honored Mr. Abraham with a Gielgud trophy during a joyous NAC ceremony that featured such luminaries as Tom Hulce and Ann Meara and Jerry Stiller.

At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, we'll be at the NAC for a Salon that focuses on actor John Douglas Thompson, who'll talk, among other things, about his role as the Earl of Kent in the Broadway presentation of an acclaimed King Lear with Glenda Jackson in the title role. A few hours later we'll move next door to The Players for a 7 p.m. SOS gathering with actress Michael Learned, best known to television audiences as Olivia Walton, John-Boy's mother, in The Waltons, but equally familiar to New York theatergoers for her roles in such Broadway classics as Edward Albee's Three Tall Women and Gore Vidal's The Best Man.

Additional programs, both at the NAC and at The Players, will be announced shortly.

Our most recent offerings in an SOS series that is now in its third decade occurred in two of New York's most celebrated venues. We opened an eventful sequence at 8 p.m. Monday, January 28, in the Grand Gallery of the National Arts Club at 15 Gramercy Park South, where we talked with actor, director, producer, and author Dakin Matthews. Dakin is currently charming audiences as Judge Taylor in an acclaimed Broadway presentation of To Kill a Mockingbird, and during what turned out to be a memorable evening he discussed not only his pivotal role in that play but his many contributions to the presentation of other classics on stage and screen. Then, to everyone's surprise and delight, he concluded an extroardinary gathering with a brief master class on scansion, focusing brilliantly on ways to approach a famous speech in The Merchant of Venice.

The following night, Tuesday, January 29, we moved next door to the venerable Dining Room and Theatre of The Players at 16 Gramercy Park South for a 7 p.m. gathering with Frog & Peach, a company that was founded by members of The Actors Studio to explore new approaches to Shakespeare's classics. Between February 22 and March 17 this energetic troupe presented Twelfth Night at the Sheen Center (18 Bleecker Street), and director Lynnea Benson and her talented performers offered vivid illustrations of the artistry of an ensemble that has featured such luminaries as Karen Lynn Gorney, Earl Hyman, and Austin Pendleton.

Earlier that day, at 2 p.m. on Tuesday the 29th in the beautiful Parlor of the National Arts Club, the Guild helped the NAC inaugurate a new series of Afternoon Salons, focusing a gentle spotlight on Alice Quinn of the Poetry Society of America, who spoke with warmth and eloquence about her work with some of the most influential writers of our era. Among the participants in this scintillating conversation were two prestigious sculptors, Babette Bloch and Marc Mellon, who were our guests for a similar gathering on Monday, February 25. That gathering was followed a few hours later by an 8 p.m. Speaking of Shakespeare conversation with acclaimed playwright and director Nagle Jackson.

A few weeks later, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, we moved next door for a special Players (16 Gramercy Park South) evening with multitalented performer Jim Dale, a musical artist who garrnered an Oscar nomination as composer of the theme song for "Georgy Girl," an actor who worked with Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company and later won a Tony Award for his title role in "Barnum," and a narrator who holds two Grammy Awards for his recordings of "Harry Potter." The following day, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 14, we were back at the NAC for a wide-ranging SOS conversation with Ethan McSweeny, who has worked in such prestigious venues as the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Shakespeare Theatre Companhy in Washington and has recently become Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia.

We then drew an eventful week to a close on Friday the Ides of March, with an NAC Salon that featured a special tour of The Players. Raymond Wemmlinger, who oversees the Hampden-Booth Theatre Library and presides over The Players Foundation. Mr. Wemmlinger welcomed us to the final home of the club's founder, Edwin Booth. Among other things, we were reminded that one of the tragedian's favorite roles, Brutus, a character he'd portrayed during a benefit presentation of Julius Caesar on November 25, 1864, at New York's Winter Garden Theatre, was destined to be made notorious by the actor's younger brother, who staged his own "lofty scene" five months later on April 14, 1865, at Ford's Theatre in Washington. For background on what has been described as the most dramatic moment in American history, click here and follow the blue links in the opening paragraph.

We're continuing to savor the Speaking engagement that concluded our SOS offerings for 2018. It commenced at 7 p.m. on Monday, November 26, at The Players, where we hosted a fervent tribute to the Drama Book Shop, an institution whose vital assistance to Broadway, and to the nation's performing-arts community as a whole, has been recegnized by a special Tony Award. Among our eloquent speakers for that occasion were president Rozanne Seelen and vice-president Allen Lee Hubby of the Shop, actors Jim Dale, Jeffrey Hardy, and Peter Maloney, and writer Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker, who emphasized how essential cultural treasures like these are to the civic health of democratic societies. For vital assistance with this event we were indebted, not only to musical artist Shana Farr of The Players, but to such Shop stalwarts as authors Nancy Reardon and Tom Flynn. We now know from a January 8th article in the Times that even more credit is due to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his Hamliton colleagues, who've purchased the Shop and will reopen it a few months hence in a new location.

To receive periodic updates from The Shakespeare Guild, you're invited to visit our Membership page for types of affiliation. There you'll find a link to a page where you can register for events, enroll as a Guild member, or provide a tax-exempt donation.

Meanwhile, for background on the Guild's signature Speaking of Shakespeare series, which began in 1998 at the National Press Club in Washington, click here. For details about offerings that have been presented in particular seasons, click on the blue link for the year that interests you: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017. And for information about upcoming programs, visit our Current Events page.