Welcome to The Shakespear Guild
We extend greetings to those who are new to the Guild, and gratitude to those who've contributed to the success of our many programs. As you browse these pages, clicking on the blue links that serve as navigating devices, you'll see that in recent years we've been using online formats for the majority of our offerings. The most notable exception is one that took place Tuesday, April 26, 2002, in one of the globe's most iconic settings.

A WESTMINSTER ABBEY CEREMONY IN HONOR OF SIR JOHN GIELGUD

Among other things, WESTMINSTER ABBEY is renowned for POETS' CORNER, where Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and other authors are honored along with such legendary dramatic artists as Henry Irving, the first actor to be knighted, and Laurence Olivier, a legend in whose name each season's award-worthy achievements are now recognized by the Society of London Theatre.

The focus of our proceedings was a beautiful new floor monument, carved by WAYNE HART, to commemorate the life and legacy of SIR JOHN GIELGUD. By design the occasion linked two resonant birthdays, Shakespeare's 458th (the playwright was baptized on April 26, 1564) and Gielgud's 118th (the actor was born on April 14, 1904). To give viewers a foretaste of the Abbey festivities, actress and singer Shana Farr of The Players and Guild president John Andrews hosted an online conversation in February of 2022 that permitted Mr. Hart to outline his approach to this special commission and allow participants to observe his first incisions in the marble slab that would soon be placed in Poets' Corner. To revisit that poignant moment, click here.

For background on a ceremony that would prove to be deeply moving, you'll enjoy an April 2022 article in The Stage, where Sir Stanley Wells of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust discusses Sir John's life and career and alludes to an October 2019 conversation at the Gielgud Theatre between John Andrews of the Guild and Paul Edmondson of the Trust that helped prepare the way for the festivities that occurred two and a half years later at the Abbey.

Participants in the program included DAME JANET SUZMAN, who serves as a member of the Sir John Gielgud Charitable Trust, vocalist SHANA FARR, and four Gielgud Award recipients: producer and filmmater SIR RICHARD EYRE, playwright SIR DAVID HARE, and performers DAME JUDI DENCH and SIR IAN MCKELLEN.

To view the Abbey's "Order of Service," click here. And click on the blue links that follow for photographs of (a) the printed booklet, (b) The Very Reverend DR. DAVID HOYLE, Dean of Westminster, as he opens the proceedings, (c) DAME JANET SUZMAN as she reads Psalm 19:1-6, (d) SIR RICHARD EYRE as he pays tribute to Sir John, (e) SIR IAN MCKELLEN as he recites a Shakespearean passage from "The Book of Sir Thomas More," (f) SIR DAVID HARE as he extols the ease with which Sir John made the transition from classical roles at the beginning of his career to more contemporary ones as he matured, (g) DAME JUDI DENCH as she recites Sonnet 29, (h) SHANA FARR as she introduces her rendering of "Jerusalem," and (i) DAME JUDI as she unveils the memorial stone.

Not surprisingly, there was significant media coverage. For a sampling of stories on television's BBC One and in London newspapers such as the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, the Telegraph, and the Times, click here. And for additional highlights, including video links to key moments in the service, see the articles in the Irvine Times, in Yahoo News, in Lynn News, and in the Bishop's Stortford Independent.

For background on the Abbey and its rich history, including vignettes that feature several of the key participants in our Poets' Corner proceedings, you'll enjoy Westminster Abbey: Behind Closed Doors, a five-hour documentary from Britain's Channel 5 that was being produced before, during, and shortly after our event and contains several references to it. Click on the following links to watch Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 of this fascinating series.

Attendees included Guardian critic Michael Billington, who shared his reactions to "a deeply moving occasion" on Twitter and said that the evening "struck just the right note: a mix of admiration for Gielgud and delight in his humour." His remarks were echoed by Helen Miller, a guest of sculptor Wayne Hart, who was charmed by "many of the anecdotes, which delightfully strayed from the order of the service." Also on hand for the occasion were such notables as actor and director Keith Baxter, writer Giles Brandreth, arts consultant Stephen Browning and his wife Julia, theatre critic Michael Coveney, Gielgud biographer Jonathan Croall, BBC radio host Billy Differ, who also serves as Director of Operations for Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, actress Kate Gielgud, producers Piers and Suzanne Gielgud, producer Thelma Holt, actors Sir Derek Jacobi and Richard Clifford, actress Kathryn Meisle, film producer David Parfitt, former Old Vic executive director Vivien Wallace, actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales, and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust leaders Sir Stanley Wells, Honorary President, and Paul Edmondson, Head of Research.

One invitee who couldn't join us for the Abbey service, historian Garry Wills, shared a memory that captured how awestruck other actors could be by the performances that Sir John and his leading contemporaries delivered. During the intermission of a mid-1970s Broadway production of Sir Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land," Mr. Wills discovered that Peter Boyle, a popular American TV star, was so moved by the brilliance of Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson that he couldn't help repeating that "They can't do that! Nobody can do that!"

As expected, the Abbey's Gielgud festivities supplied vivid reminders that Sir John will always be revered for his extraordinary career as an actor, director, and producer, achievements that were extolled with particular wit and eloquence in the deeply moving tributes that were delivered by SIR RICHARD EYRE and SIR DAVID HARE.

But it's equally important to remember that Sir John will also be cherished for his witty repartee, and for his gifts as an eloquent memoirist, a shrewd critic, and an indispensable theatre historian. Among his most lasting contributions to our cultural lives will be the charming books and articles he wrote, among them several that he produced, along with a memorable interview that was televised from his stately home in Wotton Underwood, with journalist, arts presenter, and biographer John Miller. Unfortunately, Mr. Miller and his wife Aileen were unable to join us at the Abbey, and John died a few months later. Click here for the lovely obituary that apppeared shortly thereafter in The Guardian.

In 1976 while "No Man's Land" was riveting audiences at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Sir John visited the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Mr. Andrews had the pleasure oof guiding him thoughh an exhibition about "Shakespeare in America." Nearly two decades later, Sir John contributed an incisive overview about "Tradition, Style, and the Shakespearean Actor Today" to William Shakespeare: His World, His Work, His Influence, a 3-volume reference set that was published in 1985 by Scribners. A few years later Sir John contributed illuminating forewords to Everyman Shakespeare editions of Julius Caesar and The Tempest. And in 1994 he graciously agreed to permit the Shakespeare Guild to establish a new Award in his name.

For all they did to ensure the success of this commemoration, which was underwritten by the Guild, we're deeply indebted to The Very Reverend Dr. David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, to architect Ptolemy Dean, 19th Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey, to Ian Bartlett, Clerk of the Works at the Abbey, to The Reverend Robert Latham, Sacrist at the Abbey, and to Eleanor Lovegrove, the Abbey's Press and Communications Officer.

The Guild is also grateful for the indispensable support that was supplied by Gerry Ohrstrom and by Eric and Annika Andrews, and for the generous assistance that was also provided by dozens of others, among them Catherine Allen, Sue Bellars, Letitia Chambers, Jan Denton, Jeffrey Hardy, and Lisa Andrews Hobart.

LOOKING BACK TO OTHER RECENT ATTRACTIONS

All but a handful of the GUILD's other programs since the advent of Covid-19 have been produced in collaboration with the National Arts Club in Manhattan, and our conversations with DAME JUDI DENCH and SIR IAN MCKELLEN, which drew more than 2,000 viewers apiece from around the globe, attracted the NAC's largest audiences of 2021 and were featured in the Club's year-end highlights.

Much of the credit for these successes belongs to BEN HARTLEY, who served for several years as executive director of the Club, and on February 16, 2022, we chatted with him about the new initiatves he brought to one of America's most vibrant institutions. To enjoy this conversation, click here.

And click here to watch a March 18, 2022, chat with actor and visual artist CLIVE FRANCIS. Clive has played leading roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has appeared in such films and television series as A Clockwork Orange, The Crown, Sense and Sensibility, and Yes, Prime Minister. A gifted illustrator, Clive has also produced elegant caricatures of SIR JOHN GIELGUD and other celebrities that are now displayed in West End theatres such as the beautiful one that now bears Gielgud's name. In 1994 Clive published Sir John: The Many Faces of Gielgud, a 90th-birthday collection that featured anecdotes from many of the dedicatee's most esteemed colleagues. And since 2005 a commemorative portrait that Clive produced in 1996 (copies of which Sir John inscribed with his distinctive signature) has been presented to recipients of the Gielgud Award.

Owing to health issues that have complicated Mr. Andrews' routines in recent months, our only event in 2023 has been a delightful online conversation on February 21 with F. MURRAY ABRAHAM. Murray received the Guild's 2010 Gielgud Award at the National Arts Club, and his dozens of other honors include the Oscar trophy he earned for his brilliant portrayal of Salieri in director Milos Forman's 1984 film version of dramatist Peter Shaffer's Amadeus. To watch a program that was elegantly hosted by the NAC's Nadine Heidinger, click here. And to enjoy not only that interview but several previous conversations that have been brought together, thanks to Talia Pura and Greg Malone of Theatre Santa Fe, click here.

A MEMORABLE 2021 SEASON OF ONLINE ATTRACTIONS

We opened our 2021 SPEAKING OF SHAKESPEARE series on Wednesday, February 24, with a conversation that focused on JUDI DENCH. The Guild had honored Dame Judi with its 1999 Gielgud trophy at Broadway’s Barrymore Theatre during a gala that featured such luminaries as Keith Baxter, Zoe Caldwell, Rebecca Eaton, David Hare, Hal Holbrook, Robert MacNeil, Ronald Pickup, Toby Stephens, and Christopher Plummer. To enjoy this charming visit to Dame Judi's home near London, click here. And to enjoy recent profile of Dame Judi in AARP: The Magazine, click here.

A week later, on Wednesday, March 3, we enjoyed a wide-ranging NAC@Home dialogue with IAN MCKELLEN that focused primarily on his dozens of Shakespearean roles. In 1996 Sir Ian had received the Guild's inaugural Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts during a historically resonant ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, and at several points he recalled that illustrious occasion. To revisit that conversation, click here.

On Tuesday, April 20, we focused on playwright DAVID HARE. Having taken part in our 1999 Gielgud Award presentation to Dame Judi Dench at the Barrymore Theatre in New York, Sir David himself received our 2017 Gielgud trophy at London's venerable Guildhall. To watch a memorable conversation with an extraordinary dramatist, screenwriter, director, and performer, click here.

A few days later, on Saturday, April 24, Guild President John Andrews and cabaret artist SHANA FARR of The Players co-hosted a 2021 Shakespeare's Birthday gathering with Oscar laureate F. MURRAY ABRAHAM, an exchange that celebrated what has long been revered as Edwin Booth's club, a historic institution that was founded by the actor in 1888. To watch it, click here.

Another of 2021's highlights occurred on Monday, June 14, when Mr. Andrews arranged a delightful conversation with SUSAN STAMBERG, one of the radio pioneers who made All Things Considered an essential part of our lives. In 1999 Mr. Andrews hosted an evening with Linda Wertheimer and Cokie Roberts, two of Susan's NPR colleagues, at the National Press Club. Three years earlier he'd asked Ms. Stamberg, who helped launch the Gielgud Award in 1994, to interview Kenneth Branagh (who would go on to to win that trophy in January of 2000) at the Smithsonian Institution. Two years later Ms. Stamberg interviewed 1998 Gielgud laureate Zoe Caldwell and her husband Robert Whitehead at the Folger Shakespeare Library. What led to our 2021 program with her was a remarkable new book, Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie, a tribute to "The Founding Mothers of NPR" by arts journalist Lisa Napoli. It's a riveting narrative, and if you click here you'll enjoy a memorable dialogue with the first of its title characters, a legend whose many honors include a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.

A few days later, on Tuesday, June 22, cabaret artist Shana Farr, who serves as Vice-President for The Players, hosted a wide-ranging discussion with Guild president JOHN ANDREWS. To enjoy this dialogue, click here.

Our final event of 2021, on Sunday, September 19, was a delightful follow-up conversation with IAN MCKELLEN, who by then was thrilling audiences in a production of Hamlet at Theatre Royal Windsor. At 82, Sir Ian was starring in an age-blind, color-blind, and gender-blind presentation of the drama with which Players founder Edwin Booth concluded his career in 1891 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Co-hosted by cabaret artist Shana Farr and Guild president John Andrews, this program was presented under the auspices of The Players. To watch it, click here.

Click here for background on the Guild's signature Speaking of Shakespeare series, which commenced with eminent director Peter Brook in 1998 at the National Press Club in Washington, and has included programs at the British Embassy, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, the University Club, the Washington Club, and the Woman's National Democratic Club in D.C., the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the Windy City, and such New York institutions as the Algonquin Hotel, the English-Speaking Union, the Lambs, the Princeton Club, and the Schimmel Center at Pace University.

And for details about offerings that have been presented in previous seasons, click on the years that follow: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

COMMEMORATING TWO SIGNIFICANT GIELGUD MILESTONES

Looking back to what now seems like a previous era, in October of 2019 we celebrated the 25th anniversaries of two GIELGUD milestones (the establishment of an award in Sir John's name, and the renaming of a venue that had been known as the Globe when he performed there) with festivities in honor of producer CAMERON MACKINTOSH that took place in a pair of historic settings: the venerable Guildhall in the City of London and the newly-refurbished Gielgud Theatre in London's West End. It was Sir Richard Eyre, who'd been honored in Sir John's name the previous year, who bestowed our trophy on Sir Cameron.

GARDEN-FRESH SHAKESPEARE IN SANTA FE

Meanwhile in the Land of Enchantment, after several seasons of support for productions at St. John's College and the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, the Guild has continued to broaden its scope through liaisons with organizations such as the Lensic Performing Arts Center (contributing "Great Conversations" to its online programming), the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, and the New Mexico Actors Lab.

During the summers of 2017 and 2018 the Guild co-hosted SHAKESPEARE IN THE GARDEN, joining the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and Shakespeare in Santa Fe on productions of The Tempest in 2017 and A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2018. During the summer of 2019 we collaborated with Santa Fe Classic Theater on a presentation of Romeo and Juliet that ran from May 31 through June 9 and was glowingly reviewed by the Santa Fe Reporter. For background on the play, attendees were referred to a Routledge anthology of commentary about what is often described as the world's most resonant love story. They also enjoyed a KSFR radio feature about the production, hosted by SFBG's Clayton Bass and Lindsay Taylor and featuring director Patrick Briggs and Guild president John Andrews.

As we put the finishing touches on our third presentation of SHAKESPEARE IN THE GARDEN, we were still relishing what the Guild had co-produced on Santa Fe's bustling Museum Hill in previous summers. For details about a 2018 Dream show that was warmly welcomed, for example, click here. And for background on the presentation, see Jennifer Levin's article about "The Ecology of Shakespeare" in Pasatiempo.

To encourage supporters to help sustain the work of a dramatist who was still electrifying audiences in his 454th year, we offered a March 29th
Food for Thought dinner at La Fonda on the Plaza and a May 29th benefit, Ever the Twain, which took place at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Under the direction of Lois Rudnick and Jonathan Richards, this revival of a fantasia that enchanted attendees in January 2016 was enthusiastically received, and those who arranged it were eager to revive it in other settings.

As we relished the highlights of our 2018 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, we were also savoring an SFBG rendering of The Tempest that graced the Garden amphitheater in August 2017. More than 1500 attendees applauded a show that featured superb acting, charming music and special effects, and an exquisite set by designer Jay Bush. To learn more about SHAKESPEARE IN THE GARDEN 2017, read the informative background article by Jennifer Levin and a review by James M. Keller in Pasatiempo, the Santa Fe New Mexican's weekly cultural supplement.

This production was brilliantly directed by Nagle Jackson, who'd helped artistic director Rachel Kelly preside over several seasons of Shakespeare in Santa Fe between 1997 and 2002. Mr. Jackson had returned to La Tierra Encantada in 2013 for a sprightly St. John's College medley that proved to be a complete Delight, indeed one that Mr. Keller described in Pasatiempo as that summer's "most endearing revival." Our 2017 Tempest took place in a magic circle that evoked such predecessors as the amphitheaters of Greek antiquity, the "Wooden O" that Shakespeare evokes in his prologue to Henry V, and the Zia Sun Symbol that adorns the New Mexico flag. Pulsating with reminders that an aging playwright was scripting his valedictory drama at the same time that a Spanish army was seeking to establish a "brave new world" on terrain which had been occupied for centuries by earlier settlers, this rendering of a classic score proved especially pertinent for audiences in the Southwest.

For an overview about The Tempest, attendees were encouraged to read the foreword that Sir John Gielgud generously contributed to John Andrews' 1994 Everyman Shakespeare edition of the play, as well as the Editor's Introduction that followed it. They also enjoyed Ellen Berkovitch's KSFR radio feature about Shakespeare in the Garden, as well as conversations with KVSF host Richard Eeds and KBAC host Honey Harris. In response to the show, several wrote letters that appeared in the New Nexican. And a few weeks after the production concluded, Mr. Andrews offered some late-September "Reflections on The Tempest" as part of a lecture series that he'd inaugurated a quarter of a century earlier at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. A few years later, on October 26, 2023, at Santa Fe's beautiful Quail Run condominium, Mr. Andrews adapted those "Reflections" for a presentation he whimsically described as a "QR Code for Construing Shakespeare's Magic."

A TRIBUTE TO THE AUTHOR OF "TO SIR, WITH LOVE"

As we reflect on the recent death of Sidney Poitier, a great actor and an inspiring leader, our thoughts return to the life and legacy of the gifted teacher, writer, and cultural ambassador who inspired one of Mr. Poitier's most memorable roles.

On Saturday, March 25, 2017, the Guild played a small role in a Washington National Cathedral memorial service for E. R. Braithwaite, the author who gave us To Sir, With Love, a 1959 literary best-seller that became a celebrated 1967 film with Poitier in the role that Mr. Braithwaite's autobiographical novel had made famous. Mr. Braithwaite died at the age of 104 on December 12, 2016, and Guild president John Andrews was one of the three speakers who eulogized him in the Cathedral's lovely Bethlehem Chapel. The service concluded with an organ rendering of Lulu's musical tribute to "Sir," a recording that had been popular music's number-one single a half-century earlier. Click here to watch a February 2007 conversation between Mr. Andrews and Mr. Braithwaite that has been telecast several times on C-SPAN's weekend Book TV service and now seems particularly resonant. And click here for links to Mr. Andrews' C-SPAN appearances with other authors, among them ecologist Lester R. Brown, political leader Susan Eisenhower, Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells, and cultural historian A. N. Wilson.

"SHELTERING WITH SHAKESPEARE": OBSERVATIONS BY DAKIN MATTHEWS

One of the most imaginative, and deeply generous, of the many responses to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was an extraordinary series of online presentations by actor, director, playwright, and teacher Dakin Matthews, who came up with enriching ways to use the time he had available while participating in productions such as director producer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher's award-winning Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird. In July of 2023 Christopher Kuo of the New York Times alluded to that work and discussed the tutorial sessions that Dakin has been offering more recently to younger actors as a key member of the cast of a Lincoln Center Theater production of Camelot. For a link to that article, click here.

Not surprisingly, in association with Theatre for a New Audience, Dakin has recorded an extaordinary series of guides to the playwright's unique artistry, with extensive coverage of topics that would be of interest not only to theater professionals but to what the producers of Shakespeare's First Folio referred to as "The Great Variety of Readers." To view Dakin's introduction to this online resource, click here. And to sample the insights he brings to an extraordinary variety of topics, click here and scroll down the bottom of the page.

MAKING THE MOST OF THE GUILD'S RESOURCES

For detail about these and other endeavors, we encourage you to browse these pages, clicking on the blue links that serve as navigation keys to an ever-expanding array of enriching material. Among other things, you'll observe that our BACKGROUND section provides a rich variety of perspectives on Shakespeare's world, work, and influence, many of them featuring unique contributions by or about eminent actors, directors, producers, playwrights, historians, critics, arts journalists, and other cultural leaders.

HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE GUILD'S EFFORTS

By design most of the Guild's offerings are admission-free; but that doesn't mean they're cost-free. So any help you provide will be gratefully received and promptly acknowledged. If you wish to contribute to our activities, either by enrolling or renewing as a Guild member or by assisting us with a tax-exempt donation, we'll be delighted.