On April 23, the world will celebrate the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare. The English poet/playwright is universally considered to be among a small group of the greatest known writers in history.
Of interest to Charlestonians is the possibility that the founding families of the city might well include a Londoner who knew, or whose kinsman knew, the Bard himself.
In the almost 30 years since a small group of us tried to establish a Charleston Shakespeare Festival, the popularity of the Bard's works has grown beyond our wildest dreams. A couple of years ago, Forbes reported a few standouts:
"Hamlet" is now staged somewhere in the world at any given time; there are now over 200 Shakespeare acting companies in the United States and over 400 Shakespeare festivals worldwide; much of the burgeoning popularity of Shakespeare's plays includes the opportunity they offer directors to "update" them with staging against social and historic backgrounds unknown in Shakespeare's time.
Harvard staged a disco adaptation called "The Donkey Show: A Midsummer Night's Disco." In San Diego, "Titus Andronicus" was set to Beatles music.
In Houston, "Richard III" was played as a Vegas lounge singer. In San Francisco, the African-American Shakespeare Company did "Macbeth" in hip-hop.
One noteworthy festival, held by the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, presents his plays "straight up" in a re-creation of London's Blackfriars Playhouse, where Shakespeare was performed after the Globe burned to the ground in 1613, when the playwright was still active in theater.
Exposure to the plays on stage has always been a better method of understanding them than simply reading them.
In a city committed to the preservation of both the things and the ideas of history, a Charleston Shakespeare Festival could become an important attraction to locals and visitors alike.
I know that it is not easy to become involved in an enterprise of this magnitude, but Charleston is rich in talent for such an undertaking. Many in the community might want to become involved.
But for previous family commitments, I would try to reorganize the festival. As it is, I would do anything I can to further the cause.
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