24 hours of the Bard

In 24 hours, Jack Bauer can rob a bank, hijack a plane, arrest the President of the United States, kill 38 people and get kidnapped, all while saving Los Angeles from a terrorist attack. Over 24 hours this weekend, Old Campus will play host to even more drama when the first annual Shakespeare Marathon hits campus.

Starting this Saturday at 3 p.m. and ending a full 24 hours later on Sunday, all of Shakespeare’s 39 plays, 5 narrative poems and 154 sonnets will be performed and read on campus. The Wellesley College Shakespeare Society, a student-run organization that performs two of the Bard’s plays each year, made history in February 2004 with their 24-hour continuous reading of all of his work, and several Yale students who attended the Wellesley event decided to bring the project home to New Haven.

Paul Selker ’08, who organized the Yale marathon, said the Wellesley festival was an amazing experience.

“It was the most fun I’ve had with Shakespeare,” he said, “which, for me, is saying a lot.”

But Selker said bringing the marathon to Yale was a little more difficult than he had initially imagined. He said he has been trying to organize the festival for two years, but logistical issues impeded the project. The most difficult component was finding enough classrooms that can be occupied for a full 24 hours, he said.

The marathon will take place in four classrooms on Old Campus — one each for comedies, tragedies, histories and the unclassified plays and narrative poems. The sonnets will be performed as interludes between the plays and poems. The marathon is open to the public and all are welcome to participate in the readings regardless of acting experience and previous familiarity with the works, Selker said.

“I would love it if a cross-section of the Yale community came, not only people affiliated with the theater community here,” Selker said.

The attendees and readers will be free to roam from room to room and will continuously rotate parts so that everyone can play several roles. The event planners have even promised plastic sabers for those who wish to accompany duel scenes with dynamic sword-play.

According to Laura Marcus ’10, who assisted Selker in organizing the event, the marathon is supposed to expand people’s familiarity with Shakespeare’s complete works. Not many Elis have read all of his plays, she said, and this is a great opportunity for people to expose themselves to plays on their “to be read” lists. In addition, staged readings and informal performances are an accessible and engaging way to approach Shakespeare, she said.

For Selker, the primary goal is just to have fun.

“I have no lofty goals of Shakespeare education,” he joked. “But if we can accomplish that, it would be great.”

Literature major Sophie Turrell ’08 said she thought the event sounded wonderful even if it didn’t have an explicitly utilitarian aim.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s literature for literature’s sake, just for the pure joy of Shakespeare and nothing else.”

As for incorporating the marathon into Yale’s yearly calendar, Selker said he would love to do it again if the event succeeds. Because the event is spread through four separate spaces, Marcus said, successive incarnations of the event are necessary in order to hear the complete works.

“The way the event is constructed, it’s impossible for one person to hear the complete works in one night; it would simply take too long,” she said. “Shakespeare definitely wrote enough material so that if a person came back to the marathon every year for four years, he or she would never hear the same work read twice.”

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