The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities announced today that the Virginia Shakespeare Initiative has now launched a new website to coordinate and publicize the celebration of Shakespeare Quadricentenary — marking the 400th Anniversary of his death, which took place on April 23, 1616.
The new website — VAShakespeare.org — includes a calendar of events through December of 2016, which allows users all across Virginia and elsewhere, to filter through events by date or region within Virginia. There is also a blog featuring connections between England in Shakespeare’s time and the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as a wide array of impressions and interpretations of William Shakespeare as a poet and playwright, and producer.
The idea is to involve folks on a local level all throughout the Commonwealth:
Schools and colleges, libraries, museums, and professional and amateur theater and music groups are especially encouraged to participate.
Among the notable events already planned are an exhibition of a Shakespeare First Folio at the University of Virginia, the Blackfriars Conference at the American Shakespeare Center, and a weeklong residency by Actors from the London Stage at W&L.
Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, his baptism is recorded there on 26 April 1564, and his birthday is traditionally observed on 23 April, Saint George’s Day. Married to Anne Hathaway in 1582, he was 18 and she was a young woman of 26. Their first child, Susanna, was born in 1583, six months thereafter; and two years later, their son Hamnet and daughter Judith were born and and baptized in February, 1585. At the age of 11, Hamnet died of unknown causes.
According to E.A.G. Honnigman, and Wells, et al. in The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, Shakespeare may have been employed by Alexander Hoghton of Lancashire, as a tutor. A distinguished landowner of the Roman Catholic faith, he had named a “William Shakeshafte” in his will; although there is evidence that the name Shakeshafte was not uncommon in the Lancashire area at the time.
Several of his plays were on stage in London stage by 1592, and on occasion more than one play at a time could be seen, and some alongside those of Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe and others who had the benefit of a first-rate education, rather than having been self-taught to a great extent as Shakespeare was, but having read the Classics that were available in Latin and English, with a sound tutoring in grammar and an excellent sense of humor and wit and a brilliant sense of timing as an actor.
Shakespeare’s full theatrical career seems to have spanned at least 30 years, and 38 plays and 154 sonnets have survived. Scholars agree that beginning in 1594, Shakespeare’s plays were performed solely by a specifically a group of actors themselves, in London – the Lord Chamberlain’s Men – of which Shakespeare himself was a leading player. King James I conferred a Royal patent to the company in 1603, which was thereafter officially known as The King’s Men, which performed at their own theatre outdoors on the bank of the River Thames, famously called The Globe. By the year 1608, they also took ownership of the Blackfriars, an indoor theatre, and by this time Shakespeare lived not far from St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The American Shakespeare Center, located in Staunton, Virginia is one of the members of the Planning Committee for this fulsome, year-long endeavor, along with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, The Virginia Center for the Arts and Washington & Lee University in Lexington.
The ASC has thrilled audiences for more than 25 years, in an identical reproduction of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Theatre. One of the co-founders of the Center in Staunton, was University of Virginia English professor Emeritus, Ralph A. Cohen, also Director of Mission at the American Shakespeare Center and Gonder Professor of Shakespeare and Performance, and founder of the Master of Letters and Fine Arts program at Mary Baldwin College.
In the Introduction he and Paul Menzer — as editors — write in the book, “Inside Shakespeare: Essays on the Blackfriars Stage,” they explain that the Blackfriars Theatre refers to two theatres located in the former Dominican priory in the City of London. The Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton opened in 2001. The playing area and the audience accommodations are almost identical to the indoor Blackfriars Theatre in London. Paul Menzer is a playwright, and an associate professor at Mary Baldwin College and director of the MLitt/MFA in Shakespeare and Performance Program.
Washington and Lee University will feature a variety of events throughout the 2015-2016 academic year. In the fall semester next year, they will offer Shakespeare2016, which will include six major Shakespeare-related theatrical productions, as well as speakers, music and dance performances, and “special courses, and exhibition with prints borrowed from the Folger Shakespeare Library, a film series, a student-run performance festival, a Shakespeare Garden on campus, and more.”
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest will present two Shakespeare productions there on the grounds at Thomas Jefferson’s retreat home, near Lynchburg, VA, and Alexander Barrett with Van Gogh Productions will be releasing their film production this fall, of William Shakespeare’s classic play, King Lear.
For additional information, check back with the website for Virginia’s Shakespeare Initiative regularly:
The Hamner Theater will tour Comedy of Errors in Charlottesville City Parks as well as locations in Albemarle and Nelson Counties during the summer of 2016. …
In anticipation of the First Folio visiting the University of Virginia (UVa) in October of 2016, The UVa Department of Drama will include a play by William Shakespeare in their 2016 Production Season. …
In an effort to offer the wit and wisdom of Shakespeare to younger audiences in the area not too far from where the early colonists settled, in Jamestown — named for the same King James I who had provided the Royal patent for Shakespeare’s company of playwrights and actors. Smithfield, was first colonized in 1634. just 18 years after Shakespeare’s death.
Smithfield High School will host both a workshop and an adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s plays:
In the fall, their workshop that will introduce Shakespeare’s language to children in elementary schools by having characters from Alice in Wonderland perform sets of Shakespearean lines and scenes. In the spring, there will be an adoption of one of Shakespeare’s plays to be performed by the Club members at the Olde Courthouse.
For each of these options for celebration, the invitation is extended to check back for more information about specific dates.