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  • Writer's pictureAlan Sewell

My Birthday with Shakespeare!


Last night, on my birthday, I attended a lecture and reading, “To Imagine an Antony- Shakespeare’s Infinite Fancy.” It was produced by the Public Shakespeare Initiative, the “work-in-progress” merging of the former New York Shakespeare Society and the Public Theater.

It was a delightful an informative evening. The commentator was Sir Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College and Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. A small cast of actors, headlined by Phylicia Rashad, read/performed selected scenes from the play, “Antony and Cleopatra.”

If you’ve never attended one of these events, I encourage you to go. As an actor, I’ve done Shakespeare, and attended many Shakespeare productions. I love the richness of the language and the poetry, but my understanding and appreciation of the genius of Shakespeare is expanded and transformed when a scholar like Professor Bate can step behind the words and the rhythms and offer a glimpse into the mind of Shakespeare himself. To hear him pull together the sources that Shakespeare drew from, Plutarch, Ovid and others, and his reimagining of the tale intertwined with the mythology of Venus and Hercules, opens a whole new world of appreciation and understanding of the play. Professor Bate read from some of the actual source material, then revealed how Shakespeare reshaped and molded it into the text of the play, which the actors then portrayed.

If you have even a passing interest in Shakespeare I encourage you to attend any of the events in this series. You will walk away richer for the experience.

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