Speaking of Shakespeare Link

Speaking of Shakespeare
Our next SPEAKING engagement, at 6 p.m. on Friday, January 24, at the National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South in Manhattan), will focus on Jim Dale, a celebrated performer who garnered an Oscar nomination as composer of the theme song for "Georgy Girl," who won a Tony Award for his title role in "Barnum," and who holds multiple Grammy Awards for his evocative recordings of "Harry Potter." This will be our third program with Mr. Dale, who'll entertain us with anecdotes and vignettes from one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of show business and then respond to questions and comments from the audience.

Details will be provided soon about additional offerings, among them a March 23 program at The Players with journalist Ron Rosenbaum, a prolific journalist whose many publications include a powerful book about what he dubbed The Shakespeare Wars, an April 22 Players conversation about Shakespeare in a Divided America with Columbia University's James Shapiro, and a festive, Bard-focused concert by musical artist Shana Farr at the NAC on June 19.

We launched our 2019-20 SOS series with
Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker on Monday evening, September 30, at The Players. Our primary focus was Mr. Gopnik's new book, A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism, a brilliant analysis of contemporary politics that David Brooks had commended in an eloquent column for the New York Times. But as usual we also explored a broad spectrum of other topics, among them the insights a sensitive scrutiny of Shakespeare brings to the social and political challenges we're now experiencing.

On Monday, November 18, we returned to The Players for a wide-ranging conversation with Washington Post drama critic
Peter Marks. An influential arts journalist who has been augmenting his regular theater reviews with a unique series of performance-oriented observations about leading contenders for the 2020 presidential election, Mr. Marks treated us to incisive comments about what he noticed when he looked in on the campaigns of Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.

As we arrange attractions for the months ahead, we're savoring the spring events that concluded our 2018-19 season. One was a special afternoon salon with
Linda Zagaria in Manhattan's National Arts Club on Tuesday, June 25. Another program, next door that evening at The Players, was an entertaining dialogue with New Yorker favorites Roz Chast and Patricia Marx. They discussed and signed copies of their illustrated guide to the care and tending of hard-to-please mothers, Why Don't You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It?, and charmed us with ukulele duets similar to those that had captivated audiences a few nights earlier at the legendary Carlyle Hotel.

We're also cherishing two mid-May events in a SPEAKING OF SHAKESPEARE series that is now in its third decade. One was a memorable conversation with F. Murray Abraham, who joined us for an 8 p.m. National Arts Club gathering on Monday, May 13. Best known for the Academy Award he earned as Antonio Salieri in the film version of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, Mr. Abraham has won a new generation of admirers in the role of Dar Adal on Showtime's mesmerizing Homeland series. In 2010 the Guild honored him with a Gielgud trophy during a Grand Gallery ceremony that featured such luminaries as Tom Hulce and Ann Meara and Jerry Stiller, and warm memories of that NAC gala resurfaced as a roomful of admirers enjoyed another special evening with one of today's most charismatic performers. The next afternoon, Tuesday, May 14, we returned to the club's welcoming parlor for a spirited 2 p.m. Salon with John Douglas Thompson, an impressive actor who was earning plaudits as Kent in a Broadway presentation that starred Glenda Jackson in the title role of King Lear.

We opened our 2019 programming at 8 p.m. Monday, January 28, in the Grand Gallery of the
NAC, where we conversed with actor, director, producer, and author Dakin Matthews. Mr. Matthews is currently riveting audiences as Judge Taylor in a Broadway presentation of To Kill a Mockingbird that has been nominated for multiple Tony Awards. 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 a special 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 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 inaugurate a new series of Afternoon Salons, focusing a gentle spotlight on Alice Quinn of the Poetry Society of America, who reminisced 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 evemt was followed a few hours later by an 8 p.m. Speaking of Shakespeare dialogue 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 evening with multitalented performer Jim Dale, a musical artist who garnered an Oscar nomination as composer of the theme song for "Georgy Girl," an actor who earned acclaim with Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company and later won a Tony Award for his title role in "Barnum," and a narrator who holds multiple 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 Company 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 resonant tour of The Players. Raymond Wemmlinger, who oversees the Hampden-Booth Theatre Library and presides over The Players Foundation, welcomed us to the final home of the club's founder, Edwin Booth. He reminded us that one of the tragedian's favorite protagonists was Brutus, a role he'd played during a benefit presentation of Julius Caesar on November 25, 1864, at New York's Winter Garden Theatre, and one that his younger brother made notorious when he staged his own "lofty scene" five months later 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.

In April we focused on attractions that commemorated Shakespeare's 455th birthday. The first of these was a 2 p.m. Salon on Tuesday the 23rd, at the National Arts Club with filmmaker Melinda Hall, who provided samples of the fascinating interviews she's recorded with stars such as F. Murray Abraham, Stacy Keach, Sir Ben Kingsley, Estelle Parsons, and Liev Schreiber for a fascinating YouTube series called How Shakespeare Changed My Life. A few hours later we moved 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 had been presented twice at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. The following day, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday the 24th, we enjoyed an informative session about The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey with Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte.

Looking back a year, we continue to relish the engagement that concluded our SOS offerings for 2018. It took place on November 26 at The Players, and it featured a tribute to the Drama Book Shop, an institution whose vital assistance to Broadway, and to the nation's performing-arts community as a whole, had been recegnized by a special Tony Award, but one that was being forced by rising expenses to either close or relocate. Among our eloquent speakers 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.

A few weeks after our gathering we learned from a January 8th article in the Times that Lin-Manuel Miranda and his Hamliton colleagues had purchased the Shop. And we now know from a more recent Times update that it will soon reopen at another location in the theater district. We're now exploring the possibility of a follow-up event to celebrate this happy consummation.

Click here for background on the Guild's signature Speaking of Shakespeare series, which began in 1998 at the National Press Club in Washington, and has included programs at the British Embassy, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, the University Club, and the Woman's National Democratic Club in D.C., the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the Windy City, and such New York institutions as the Algonquin Hotel, the English-Speaking Union, The Lambs, the Princeton Club, and the Schimmel Center.

For details about offerings that have been presented in previous 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, 2018.

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.