After two years, festival becomes reality

madeleine_witt_culture_shakespeare_
Photo by Madeleine Witt.

This semester, Yale will exercise its vast collection of Shakespearean resources with events ranging from “Baking With the Bard” at the Yale Sustainable Food Project to student productions of “Macbeth” and “Othello.” But behind all the excitement of the Shakespeare at Yale initiative is a year’s worth of work and cooperation.

After English professor David Scott Kastan first pitched the idea of showcasing Yale’s Shakespeare collections to University President Richard Levin in early 2010, a planning committee comprising 24 Yale professors and administrators spent last spring meeting to discuss the vision for the event and identify Yale’s breadth of potential offerings.

“When Professor Kastan had the idea of showcasing all of Yale’s resources relating to Shakespeare, I know he had some idea of their range, depth and distinction. But I don’t believe that even he had any idea of just exactly how rich those resources were,” said Penelope Laurans, special assistant to the president and a member of the festival’s development and administration team, in an email.

Kathryn Krier DRA ’07, the program’s coordinator, said in an email that the collaborative nature of the festival has been clear from the start, when the committee began brainstorming during the first phase of planning last year.

“[The festival] also showcases Yale’s institutional ability to gather all those resources in a way that displays the whole as being even greater than the sum of its parts,” Laurans said.

There will be a Shakespeare at Yale event each day this semester, with students having the opportunity to attend theatrical productions, film screenings and exhibits at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Yale Center for British Art, among many other events.

But while Shakespeare at Yale will coordinate and promote its partners’ events, the program will not produce any events itself, Krier said. How exactly each organization chose to celebrate Shakespeare is left entirely to its own administrators, she added.

The celebration incorporates professors from many different disciplines and students from a variety of backgrounds, student coordinator Katharine Pitt ’12 said.

“Shakespeare’s work can be applied to arts and academia in as many ways as there are people to read his plays,” she added.

Many undergraduates became involved with the project as a result of the Shakespeare Challenge, a campus-wide call for event ideas last semester, Krier said. Selected undergraduate initiatives received funding from the Office of the Dean of the Arts for their projects.

Funding was a particular draw for senior Theater Studies majors: there are a total of 11 majors working on Shakespeare for their senior projects, Pitt said, more than any year she could remember.

In another year, such productions may only have received funding from the Creating and Performing Arts Fund. Projects supported by the Shakespeare Challenge, however, have money over and above this amount, said Timmia Hearn Feldman ’12, the student director of “Coriolanus,” the first show to go up.

Krier said the schedule of Shakespeare at Yale was filled in “organically” based on the partner organizations’ schedules. The festival will wrap up with “Festival Weekend” on Apr. 20-22, which will include talks, performances and nine exhibition, Krier said.

“It makes you in awe of Yale,” Laurans said. “Its stunning holdings make you realize what a place this is and how lucky we all are to have access to what it offers.”

Shakespeare at Yale kicked off on Jan. 3 with “‘While these visions did appear’: Shakespeare on Canvas,” an exhibiton at the YCBA.

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