Shakespeare festival takes form

The calendar for next semester’s Shakespeare at Yale festival will be released today.
The calendar for next semester’s Shakespeare at Yale festival will be released today. Photo by Erica Cooper.

After months of preparation, Shakespeare at Yale is a step closer to its debut.

The festival, which will feature a Shakespeare-related event every day of the spring semester, will launch its official calendar online today, a week and a half after applications to the Shakespeare Challenge — which solicited student ideas for Bard-related events — closed. As part of the festival’s goal of showcasing existing Yale resources for both the study and appreciation of Shakespeare, the Office of the Dean for the Arts in Yale College will fund several student-led initiatives through the Shakespeare Challenge. Events will include dozens of talks, performances, films and exhibits, many of which will be run by students, organizers said.

“I don’t think there is another university that has the array of resources that will be visible here,” said English professor David Kastan, who came up with the original idea for Shakespeare at Yale.

Jonathan Edwards Master Penelope Laurans said she hopes the festival will bring together many facets of the University in a celebration similar to Yale’s tercentennial, which took place a decade ago. Often, people affiliated with Yale are unaware of the resources available outside their “bubbles,” she added.

Indeed, Kathryn Krier DRA ’07, who is on the festival’s planning committee, said the festival is unique in that it will showcase only resources already existing at the University and in the community. As the planning committee approached various groups on campus, Kastan said, there was an outpouring of interest in the festival.

From theater studies majors to slam poets, members of the Yale community are finding ways to get involved.

Katharine Pitt ’12, who is a theater studies major on the planning committee, said four Shakespeare plays will be acted in or directed as senior projects. These plays — “Coriolanus,” “Othello,” “Hamlet,” and “Macbeth” — will accompany at least as many other traditional performances of Shakespeare’s works by groups such as the Yale School of Drama, she said.

But Pitt said the festival will include plenty of other, less traditional Shakespeare-related events.

“We want to remind people that Shakespeare isn’t just something we suffer through in high school,” she said.

Teeth Slam Poets, an undergraduate slam poetry group, will be holding “Slamlet,” a poetry slam to the theme of Shakespeare, on April 7. Sophia Sanchez ’13, the president and artistic director of the group, said that while the group has not previously explored Shakespeare in its work, all of its members were enthusiastic about the festival when another member proposed participating in it last spring. She added that the group has not firmly decided what it will perform for its event yet, but said members have been considering several different ideas, including retelling “Hamlet” from the point of view of a minor character, or producing slam poetry inspired by the works of Shakespeare.

“I think it’s going to be fun to take something traditional and see what slam poetry has to offer,” she said. “The goal isn’t to dumb down or simplify Shakespeare; it’s to bring a new perspective to a traditional work.”

While delving into the Bard will be a novel experience for Teeth Slam Poets, other participants in the festival already have some experience with Shakespeare.

Yale Children’s Theater, a student group that produces original theatrical performances for children, will relate its final show this year to Shakespeare’s work, artistic director Kyle van Leer ’13 said in an email Monday.

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library will be getting on board as well. Kathryn James, curator of early modern books and manuscripts and of the Osborn collection, said she and Kastan will curate “Remembering Shakespeare,” a large-scale exhibition featuring many of Yale’s historic resources pertaining to the Bard. These resources include original folios, quartos, manuscripts and paintings, some of which belong to the Elizabethan Club.

One of the first events on the Shakespeare at Yale calendar is be a performance of “Coriolanus,” directed by theater studies professor Daniel Larlham ’00.

Correction: September 29, 2011

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Shakespeare at Yale will contain performances by the Yale University Dramatic Association, when in fact, there are currently no formal plans for the Dramat to participate in the festival. Additionally, this article implied that the festival would only feature events involving Yale organizations, but it will include several community organizations, including Elm City Shakespeare, the Legacy Theater, and the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School.

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