Speaking of Shakespeare Link

Current Events

Like other institutions, we're now using digital formats for engagements that would normally be presented in traditional gatherings. Our next event, at 12 noon Eastern time on Wednesday, February 24, will focus on Dame Judi Dench, who received our Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts at Broadway’s Barrymore Theatre in a May 1999 gala that featured such luminaries as Zoe Caldwell, David Hare, Hal Holbrook, and Christopher Plummer. To register for this program, click here.

In 1976 a young Judi Dench had shared the limelight with another rising star in a celebrated Trevor Nunn production of Macbeth at The Other Place, an intimate RSC setting in Stratford-upon-Avon. So we're delighted that Sir Ian McKellen, our inaugural Gielgud laureate, will be joining us for a conversation in early March. A link to that NAC@Home attraction will be provided shortly.

Our most recent dialogue featured Sir Richard Eyre, who oversaw Britain's National Theatre during a decade that featured such triumphs as a touring Richard III, with Sir Ian McKellen in the title role, and the global premiere of Angels in America. Dame Judi influenced Sir Richard's decision to become a director, and he took part in the 1999 Gielgud ceremony that paid tribute to her. He has also enriched our lives with a number of cinematic gems, among them Iris and Notes on a Scandal, both of which starred Dame Judi, and a recent King Lear with Sir Anthony Hopkins in the title role. Click here for a riveting hour with one of the most visionary artists of our era.

Another memorable conversation, recorded September 13 in association with Santa Fe's Lensic Performing Arts Center, was a chat with Jim Dale, a celebrated performer who garnered an Oscar nomination as lyricist for the theme song in "Georgy Girl," who won a Tony Award for his title role in "Barnum," and who holds multiple Grammy Awards for his evocative recordings of "Harry Potter." Click here to enjoy the charming anecdotes he shared with Lensic executive director Joel Aalberts and Guild president John Andrews about his brilliant career as a singer, composer, actor, director, raconteur, and narrator.

One of our most resonant programs, recorded in late June by the National Arts Club in Manhattan but held for realease until August 19, was a wide-ranging exchange with Harvard's Stephen Greenblatt. It commenced with a discussion of the prescient op-ed that Professor Greenblatt published in the New York Times a few weeks before America's 2016 presidential election. It then focused on Tyrant, his 2018 volume about Shakespeare's insights into how corrupt authoritarians seize and maintain power. From there it proceeded to a broader consideration of the classical education a budding playwright received in grammar school, and the ways in which it equipped him to produce the resonant masterpieces that led a fellow dramatist, Ben Jonson, to eulogize him in the 1623 First Folio as an artist who was "not of an age, but for all time." For a vivid illustration of how Professor Greenblatt's books and articles are influencing today's political discourse, see a recent Times column by Maureen Dowd.

On June 23 we arranged a special afternoon session with F. Murray Abraham, a YouTube conversation that permitted the Guild to introduce a charismatic actor who grew up in the Southwest to his many admirers at Santa Fe's Lensic Performing Arts Center. A few weeks later, on August 12, we enjoyed a delightful National Arts Club conversation with actor John Douglas Thompson, who'd recently portrayed the Duke of York in the New York Public Theater's WNYC audio presentation of Richard II. Now available on the NAC@Home channel, this dialogue had been promoted by both Broadway World and Thought Gallery, and it drew to a close with pertinent questions from well-informed viewers around the country.

Many of those participants had joined us May 26 for a dialogue with Columbia's James Shapiro. That discussion had also been hosted by the NAC, and it allowed us to explore Shakespeare in a Divided America, a timely volume that the New York Times has recently identified as one of The Ten Best Books of 2020.

As we recall the days before Covid-19 changed our lives, many of us are now feeling nostalgic about evenings such as the one that occurred on February 26 at The Players (16 Gramercy Park South in Manhattan) with two of America's most distinguished visual artists, illustrators James McMullan and Edward Sorel. This exchange, which took place in the club's atmospheric Hampden-Booth Library, was recorded by Ed's son, Leo Sorel, and thanks to him and his colleague James Salzano we're pleased to make it available here for viewing.

Because of the Trumpidemic that followed that special occasion, we've postponed several SOS offerings. Yet to be rescheduled, either as programs with in-situ audiences or as online offerings, are conversations with Ron Rosenbaum (a prolific journalist whose publications include The Shakespeare Wars), with Shana Farr (a gifted cabaret singer), and with Scott Newstok (an esteemed scholar who draws on "Lessons from a Renaissance Education" to explain How to Think Like Shakespeare).

Shortly to be announced, meanwhile, is a new series of NAC@Home conversations, to be presented during the next few months, that will feature recipients of the Guild's prestigious GIELGUD AWARD, among them director Sir Richard Eyre (2018) and actors Sir Derek Jacobi (1997), Sir Ian McKellen (1996), and Sir Patrick Stewart (2008).

During the interim we encourage you to revisit a 2007 C-SPAN2 interview with E. R. Braithwaite, the author who gave us To Sir, With Love, a globally-renowned, best-selling 1959 memoir about racial struggles in post-war London that provided Sidney Poitier with one of his finest roles in an award-winning film whose theme song, recorded by Lulu, was Billboard's top single of 1967. For more detail about Ambassador Braithwaite, who died in 2016, visit OTHER OFFERINGS.


Our most recent Gielgud Award, presented on Monday, October 28, 2019, paid tribute to the extraordinary achievements of Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Once again our Award festivities took place in conjunction with the UK Theatre Awards Luncheon. And once again our Award selection was featured in publications such as Broadway World and The Stage. As it happened, however, this celebration occurred, not as usual in London's venerable Guildhall on Sunday, October 27, but at the beautiful Gielgud Theatre the following afternoon. As you'll see if you peruse our brief overview about the gathering, it proved to be a memorable occasion, and one that saluted not only that year's Award recipient but Clive Francis, the actor and visual artist whose caricatures are among the highlights of a beautiful shrine to the Gielgud legacy.

Fifteen years earlier, on April 19, 2004, the Guild had joined the RSC and RADA in that resonant setting for a remarkable Gielgud Centenary Gala. Our 2019 gathering vividly recalled that occasion. But it also commemorated two anniversaries that dated back a quarter of a century: (a) the establishment of a new award in Sir John's name, which was announced on April 24, 1994, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, and (b) the renaming of a venue on Shaftesbury Avenue that had been known as the Globe prior to November 2, 1994, when it became the Gielgud Theatre in recognition of Sir John's exemplary accomplishments, not least among them fifteen major productions in that prestigious setting.

Bestowing our 2019 trophy was Sir Richard Eyre, who was busy directing a revival of Mary Poppins at London's Prince Edward Theatre. In addition to his many achievements in the profession for which he is best known, Sir Richard is a distinguished producer, filmmaker, and author, and it was he who received our 2018 Gielgud Award at last October's UK Theatre Awards luncheon. Sir Richard's riveting television production of King Lear, with Sir Anthony Hopkins in the title role, had debuted a few weeks earlier on Amazon Prime Video. Meanwhile his evocative feature film, The Children Act, co-starring Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci and featuring Fionn Whitehead in a screenplay by novelist Ian McEwan, was gripping moviegoers around the globe. And if those credits were not enough, Sir Richard was also directing Laura Linney in My Name Is Lucy Barton, a "beautifully nuanced solo performance" (Michael Billington of The Guardian) to open soon on Broadway.

Our 2018 award had been presented by Sir Ian McKellen, The Guild's inaugural Gielgud laureate, who was himself appearing in a West End staging of King Lear that had been shared cinematically with audiences throughout the world. When he'd received his own trophy, during a ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library on May 20, 1996, Sir Ian had graced the occasion not only with praise for Sir John, but with a from The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore, relating the words that Shakespeare had composed for the script's title character to remarks that Justice Anthony Kennedy had uttered earlier that day while he was delivering a pivotal Supreme Court ruling that "no state may 'deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws.'"

As he bestowed the 2018 Gielgud trophy, Sir Ian recalled how much Sir John did, not only to exemplify meticulous standards in his own presentations of Shakespeare and other playwrights, but to encourage and support the efforts of other performers, among them those who were just beginning their careers. Sir Ian extolled Richard Eyre for the same qualities, and he emphasized how much everyone who cherishes the dramatic arts has benefited from his many contributions to our cultural lives.

For more detail about the Guild's 2018-19 programming, click here. If you wish to join and receive periodic updates, we invite you to visit our MEMBERSHIP page for types of affiliation. There you'll find a link to a page where you can register for events, enroll as a Guild member, or provide a tax-exempt DONATION.