Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

After all of those long hours of research and preparation, the day of the launch of the exhibit, “Shakespeare at 450: Keeping the Name Alive” arrived! And without a glitch! I’m very used to the day of performance being bubbling over with stress and anticipation – making sure everyone knows where to go, that the location and staff are on board, that I’ve done my part thoroughly, and of course, that the event itself is enjoyable. The event was to start at 7pm on April 14, so of course I arrived at 6pm, anticipating last-minute frenzy. Instead, I was met with the delightful sight of my exhibit, as I had installed it the week previous, seeming to beam and shine in its cases, Lisa, Carrie and Kate Crocker ready to introduce me, the student performers warming up for their sonnet recitations, and the Founder’s Room all arranged. Everything was in order!

The event was everything I could have hoped for and more. The energy was lively and joyous, the food labeled with Shakespearean puns (“O Oreo, Oreo, wherefore art thou Oreo?”), and me, the curator, exuberant. My family drove out from Los Angeles to be part of the audience, as well as close friends, but there was also an entire class, and members of the Claremont Shakespeare community who had heard about the exhibit and performance and wanted to come out. It’s always thrilling to see faces that I don’t recognize, because it shows the scope and breadth of the outreach of my project, as well as just how many people do indeed love Shakespeare.

Olivia Buntaine’s directed performance of Shakespearean sonnets was the icing on the birthday cake. Olivia, a junior at Scripps College, has aspirations of being a Shakespearean actor, and after having seen her in her directed production of “Twelfth Night” last semester, I knew that if I was going to have a performance element to the launch of my exhibit, that I wanted her to direct it. The performance, entitled, “Who Will Believe My Verse in Time To Come?”, after the eponymous sonnet, wove seven romantic Shakespearean sonnets together into one narrative, following the arc of love through infatuation, deep passion, fading connections, and letting go. The performance was a perfect union of passion and sharp, witty Shakespearean language, and as the actors followed one after the other, occasionally falling over each other to get their passionate thoughts out, the audience was clearly enraptured. When the performance ended, it was as though a spell had broken, and as people filed out into the lobby to view the exhibit, I felt as though the performance had achieved something very important for the exhibit: it had drawn everyone together to experience Shakespeare as he is meant to be – performed in front of an audience, and then remembered and celebrated as a community.