Area Events Commemorate 400 Years Since Shakespeare’s Death

Blaine Swen (center), who holds a PhD in philosophy from Loyola University, first began performing improvisational theater in high school. Photo courtesy: The Independent Shakespeare Company.

Few writers have impacted world culture like William Shakespeare. His plays are widely considered the greatest pieces ever created for the theater, his writing has contributed countless phrases to the lexicon, and even now, centuries after his death, his work is continuously rediscovered, reimagined and celebrated by new generations of artists.

This year, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, several area artistic institutions will pay tribute to the famous Bard of Avon with events honoring his contributions to the world— some in a more reverential tone than others.

All the world’s a stage

The Toledo Museum of Art is celebrating the writer with an exhibit entitled “Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part”, featuring 30 Bard-inspired pieces, covering a wide variety of artistic disciplines. As well, the display includes the museum’s copy of the second folio of Shakespeare’s work, printed in 1632.

In addition to the exhibit, TMA will also showcase the Bard’s plays, as they were meant to be experienced, through performance. Films based on Shakespeare’s work will be screened, a performance by the Improvised Shakespeare Company is set for October 8, and Wednesdays include performances of poems and scenes written by Shakespeare. (Read our interview with founder, Blain Swen, at toledocitypaper.com)

“You have this mid-afternoon, midweek dosage of Shakespeare, that not only allows us to have actors performing key scenes from the plays, but we will over the course of those weeks have either a live actor or participant reading, or some sort of interesting musical recording, or historic recording, of all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets,” Boberg said.

Brevity is the soul of wit

A tongue-in-cheek approach to the Bard’s works will be performed at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre beginning September 30, with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised].

The show, which purports to sum up the whole of the Bard’s canon in one high-energy evening of comedy, was created in 1987 and has been a favorite of audiences around the world ever since.

“It’s three actors trying to do all of Shakespeare’s plays in an hour and a half,” said Brad Smith, one of the three performers in the Rep’s production. “So it’s a silly, madcap romp with a bunch of quick wig and costume changes, trying to give the impression that we’ve covered all of Shakespeare — a ridiculous idea, done with great enthusiasm and, hopefully, some skill.”

Under the direction of Micaela Whitaker, rehearsals have gone well, Smith said.  “At this point, the worst of the crazy is yet to come,” Smith said wryly. “We open on September 30, so we’re just at the point now where we’re memorizing the material, so up to this point it’s been…I don’t want to say ‘easy,’ but we haven’t yet been moving at a breakneck pace.”

And despite the satirical bent of Complete Works, Smith believes viewers will come away from the show with a renewed appreciation of Shakespeare, a writer who still looms large over world culture.

“Even though we’re satirizing these works, we are still [using] a lot of the original language, and many of the original scenes ;  some of the greatest material that was ever written.  So I think, ideally, people would come to see this show and they’re going to have a good time and laugh a lot, but they’ll also, perhaps, take another look at these plays.”

“Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part” will run in Gallery 6
at the Toledo Museum of Art through January 8.
For more information on the exhibit, visit toledomuseum.org.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]
will run September 30-October 9
at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre on 10th St.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit ToledoRep.org.