Shakespeare exits stage, enters garden

April 30, 2009

by Kathleen Duncan

“All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players,” William Shakespeare said. That was the theme of the Sigma Tau Delta’s Shakespeare Festival and dedication of the new Shakespeare Garden and stage from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 23.

The day offered a variety of events, including stage combat, Renaissance music, scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, both comic and historical, and mini-lectures by Shakespearean scholars. Between scheduled events, volunteers from the audience participated in a marathon reading of all 154 sonnets.

Dorothy Robbins, sponsor of Sigma Tau Delta, an international English honor society and an assistant professor of English, said she started the garden because her office overlooks the garden area and she felt it was a little unkempt.

“In addition to being an English professor, I’m an amateur gardener,” she said. “I would occasionally remove a weed here or there so I spoke to the dean about [Sigma Tau Delta] adopting the garden.”

She also said when the festival began three years ago the garden was overrun with weeds.

“The garden is divided into four sections,” Robbins said. “We have the dream garden, rose garden, herb garden and cottage garden.”

She said Sigma Tau Delta chose to dedicate the garden and stage on Shakespeare’s birthday as a way of honoring him.

“Shakespeare is an iconic figure, perhaps the most recognizable literary name in the world,” she said. “On the anniversary of his birthday, April 23, which, coincidentally, was also the day of his death, gatherings around the world are held in his honor. While the focus of our festival is William Shakespeare’s work and life, by extension we honor other writers and works of literature.”

Robbins also said the author Miguel Cervantes also died on April 23, and Spanish-language students read poems in his honor in a morning session of the Shakespeare Festival.

She said Sigma Tau Delta is trying to add something to the festival each year.

“Last year we added a statue of Shakespeare himself,” Robbins said. “This year, with the help of two donors, Justin and Jeanette Hinkley, we were able to add the stage.”

She said the stage was used during the festival but will also be available for other events.

“There have been classes out there, and when the theater professors see it they come up with an idea [for classes or performances], so the stage is really there for student use,” Robbins said.

Celia Lewis, an associate professor of English, gave a mini-lecture about Shakespeare’s character, Richard III.

“I chose him because he is one of the most fascinatingly wicked of Shakespeare’s characters,” Lewis said. “One of the differences [between] this year’s mini-lecture and last year’s would be [the fact that] that we had actors perform the scene I spoke on.”

Matthew Bass, a senior speech major, played the part of Richard III.

“I was asked by Paul Crook to perform [as Richard III], which I did enjoy quite a bit,” Bass said. “It was fun playing a demented, evil man.”

Other mini-lectures included “To Boldly Go or Not to Boldly Go, Star Trek and Hamlet,” “Murder and Mayhem on the Elizabethan Stage” and “Shakespeare y Amigos.”

Robbins said she was glad the day was warm enough for more than just the readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

“We have a lot of Shakespeare scholars in the English department as well as a very active theater,” Robbins said. “Given the wonderful climate here, I thought we could have more events. I am ecstatic the day went so well, and I hope we do as well next year.”