A Wild Semester of Shakespeare at Yale

A Wild Semester of Shakespeare at YaleA Wild Semester of Shakespeare at YaleA Wild Semester of Shakespeare at Yale

In the words of Shakespeare, she’s a wow!

—Eddie Cantor, “If You Knew Susie” 

Shakespeare at Yale began quietly in early January with a pair of events at the Yale Center for British Art. A small but provocative exhibition of 19th century paintings inspired by Shakespeare plays opened, and remains on the gallery’s fourth floor through June 3. On Jan. 4, adventurous New York actress Stephanie DiMaggio, coached by students in the Yale School of Drama directing program, presented scenes from King Lear—speeches done by characters much older, and of a different gender, than she is.

It was, as Shakespeare might say, a fine “herald to a gaudy spring,” for what is an interactive and interdisciplinary semester-long Elizabethan lollapalooza.

English professor David Kastan came up with the concept of a showcase of Shakespeare-themed items from the university’s diverse collections. Then the Yale School of Drama and a number of student performance groups got into the act.

“The original idea was for a festival which could highlight the riches already here,” says Shakespeare at Yale’s program coordinator Kathryn Krier. “Our job is to

Shakespeare at Yale
Various venues on the Yale campus.
Full calendar of events: www.calendar.yale.edu/…
Most events are free. Theater tickets from $10 to $75.
www.shakespeare.yale.edu/ 

gather it all together.”

“We’re now approaching the thick of it,” Krier says. So ready thyself for:

• Exhibitions at such varied libraries as Beinecke (Remembering Shakespeare), Sterling (Yale’s Shakespeareans), the Yale Law School Library (Shakespeare & The Law) and the School of Medicine (Medicine in Shakespeare’s London).

• Lectures and discussions such as Remembering the Corpus: The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Feb. 15 at the Beinecke Library) and Understanding Hamlet: A Look Into the Studio Practice of Edwin Austin Abbey (Feb. 22 at the Yale University Art Gallery, where the late-19th-century painter’s imaginative renderings of scenes from Hamlet and Richard III hang).

• Film screenings: on March 24 there’s Al Pacino’s documentary Looking for Richard (about his anxieties tackling the role of Richard III) at 2 p.m. in the Yale Center for British Art and Ran, Akira Kurosawa’s take on King Lear, 7 p.m. at the Whitney Humanities Center.

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• Hard-to-categorize events such as: Concord of Sweet Sounds, a Feb. 22 lecture/performance by the Yale Collegium Musicum at the Beinecke Library; Slamlet, an April 7 spoken-word throwdown featuring British rapper Kate Tempest and Yale’s own Teeth Slam Poets; and the Yale Sustainable Food Project’s Baking With the Bard workshop exploring the Elizabethan love of figs.

• Last but foremost, theater performances. There’s the laidback Weekly Reading with the Yale Shakespeare Project Sunday evenings at Ezra Stiles College. There’s The Deadly Seven a sinister revue of scenes and monologues invoking the Seven Deadly Sins subtitled “Shakespeare’s Purgatorio,” Feb. 16-19 at the theater space in Davenport College. There’s The Yiddish King Lear, Jacob Gordin’s famous 1892 reworking of Shakespeare’s family tragedy for Jewish audiences, March 8-10 at the Yale Cabaret. There’s a Yale School of Drama student production of Antony & Cleopatra (March 8-10) at the Iseman Theatre on Chapel Street. There’s an undergraduate West Side Story rumble April 19-21 at the Off Broadway Theater. On the highest professional level, there’s The Winter’s Tale, March 16-April 7 at the Yale Repertory Theatre, directed by Liz Diamond. In June, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas will join in with Wu-Hsing Kuo of the  Contemporary Legend Theater of Taiwan performing his one-man King Lear alongside a troupe of Chinese musicians.

As the great bard once wrote: “Zounds!!”

Written by Christopher Arnott.

Image credits:
1. Ben Jonson, “To the reader,” in Mr. William Shakespear’s comedies, histories, and tragedies: published according to the true original copies (1664). Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
2. Medical/Astrological manuscript (1553), depicting the 4 Temperaments.
3. Avery Brooks in King Lear. Photo © Joan Marcus, 2004.

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Christopher Arnott has written about arts and culture in Connecticut for over 25 years. His journalism has won local, regional and national awards, and he has been honored with an Arts Award from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. He posts daily at his own sites www.scribblers.us and New Haven Theater Jerk (www.scribblers.us/nhtj).

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