Speaking of Shakespeare Link

Current Events

Like other cultural institutions, the Guild is now using digital formats for programs that would normally be taking place in traditional gatherings. We recently enjoyed a dialogue, for example, with F. Murray Abraham, a YouTube conversation that took place Tuesday, June 23, in association with Santa Fe's Lensic Performing Arts Center. We now look forward to two events that will be presented by the National Arts Club in Manhattan. One is a conversation to occur Wednesday, August 12, with actor John Douglas Thompson, who portrayed the Duke of York in the Public Theater's recent WNYC audio presentation of Richard II. The other, a recently recorded discussion to be made available Thursday, August 20, will focus on Harvard's Stephen Greenblatt. Commencing with a prescient op-ed that Professor Greenblatt published in the New York Times a few weeks before our 2016 presidential election, it then proceeds to a discussion of Tyrant, his 2018 volume about Shakespeare's portrayal of the methods autocrats use to seize and maintain dictatorial power. For a reminder of the influence that Greenblatt's insights are having on today's political commentary, see a recent Times column by Maureen Dowd.

Looking back a few weeks, we extend thanks to those who joined us Tuesday, May 26, for a special afternoon with Columbia's James Shapiro. This engaging dialogue was hosted by the NAC, and it gave participants a chance to discuss Shakespeare in a Divided America, the timely subject of Professor Shapiro's most recent book. It's now available for viewing not only on the NAC website, but on a "Great Conversations" page that has been generously provided by executive director Joel Aalberts of Santa Fe's Lensic Performing Arts Center.

Meanwhile, to provide a deeper perspective on today's social and political conflicts, we encourage you to revisit a 2007 C-SPAN2 interview with the late E. R. Braithwaite, the author who gave us To Sir, With Love, a 1959 memoir about racial struggles that provided Sidney Poitier with one of his most rewarding roles in a 1967 film whose theme song, recorded by Lulu, was Billboard magazine's top single of the year. For more detail about Ambassador Braithwaite, who died in 2016 at the age of 104, scroll down to the bottom of our Welcome page.

As we contemplate the days before Covid-19 changed our lives, many of us are now feeling nostalgic about evenings such as the one that occurred at The Players on February 26 with two of America's most distinguished visual artists, illustrators James McMullan and Edward Sorel. This exchange, which occurred in the club's 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 today's Trumpidemic, we've postponed a number of SOS offerings, among them the one we'd originally planned for April 22 at The Players with Mr. Shapiro. Yet to be rescheduled are programs we'd announced for March 23 with Ron Rosenbaum, a prolific journalist whose publications include The Shakespeare Wars, and a Bard-focused evening we'd put on the NAC calendar for June 19 with musical artist Shana Farr.

Our current plan is to open our 2020-21 SOS season at The Players on Monday, September 14, with Scott Newstok, a scholar who's drawing upon "Lessons from a Renaissance Education" to explain
How to Think Like Shakespeare. And we're optimistic about an autumn gathering with cultural leader Ben Hartley of the NAC. But of course those aspirations are subject to forces beyond our control, and we're now bracing for the possibility that we'll remain limited to online programs for the next several months.

Meanwhile we're pleased to note that among the resoources that are currently available in digital formats are four Shakespeare Birthplace Trust lectures by Sir Stanley Wells about what the playwright was really like. This series features prefatory remarks by Professor Russell Jackson of the University Birmingham, Artistic Director Gregory Doran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Pofessor Lena Cowen Orlin of Georgetown University, and Professor Michael Dobson of the Shakespeare institute.

We launched our 2019-20 SOS series with Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker on Monday evening, September 30, at The Players. Our primary focus was Mr. Gopnik's new book, A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism, a brilliant analysis of contemporary life that David Brooks had commended in an eloquent column for the New York Times. But we also explored a broad spectrum of other topics, among them the insights a sensitive scrutiny of Shakespeare brings to the social and political challenges we're currently experiencing.

On Monday, November 18, we returned to The Players for a wide-ranging conversation with Washington Post drama critic
Peter Marks. An influential arts journalist who was augmenting his regular theater reviews with a unique series of performance-oriented observations about candidates for the 2020 presidential election, Mr. Marks treated us to incisive comments about what he observed when he looked in on the campaigns of Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.

We welcomed 2020 on Friday, January 24, at the National Arts Club, where we relished a scintillating presentation by
Jim Dale, a celebrated performer who garnered an Oscar nomination as composer of the theme song for "Georgy Girl," who won a richly-deserved Tony Award for his title role in "Barnum," and who holds multiple Grammy Awards for his evocative recordings of "Harry Potter." This was our third event with Mr. Dale, who entertained us with hilarious anecdotes and memorable vignettes from one of the most extraordinary careers in the history of show business and then responded to questions and comments from an enthusiastic audience.

A few days later, on Monday, January 27, we gathered at The Players with actor, director, producer, and author Dakin Matthews, who was riveting audiences as Judge Taylor in playwright Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher's phenomenal Broadway adaptation of novelist Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. After hearing Mr. Matthews' remarks about that remarkable drama, and discussing some of the other highlihgts of his extraordinary career, we were treated to his informative observations about three Shakespearean sonnets (numbers 17, 18, and 104), which he analyzed as powerful illustrations of the same rhetorical techniques that a brilliant playwright employed in his dramatic masterpieces.

As we arrange attractions for the months ahead, we're savoring the spring events that concluded our 2018-19 season. One was a special afternoon salon with cultural leader Linda Zagaria in Manhattan's National Arts Club on Tuesday, June 25. Another program, next door that evening at The Players, was an entertaining dialogue with New Yorker favorites Roz Chast and Patricia Marx. They discussed and signed copies of their illustrated guide to the care and tending of hard-to-please mothers, Why Don't You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It?, and charmed us with ukulele duets similar to those that had captivated audiences a few nights earlier at the legendary Carlyle Hotel.

We're also cherishing two mid-May events in a SPEAKING OF SHAKESPEARE series that is now in its third decade. One was a memorable conversation with F. Murray Abraham, who joined us for an 8 p.m. National Arts Club gathering on Monday, May 13. Best known for the Academy Award he earned as Antonio Salieri in the film version of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, Mr. Abraham has won a new generation of admirers in the role of Dar Adal on Showtime's mesmerizing Homeland series. In 2010 the Guild honored him with a Gielgud trophy during a Grand Gallery ceremony that featured such luminaries as Tom Hulce and Ann Meara and Jerry Stiller, and warm memories of that NAC gala resurfaced as a roomful of admirers enjoyed another special evening with one of today's most charismatic performers. The next afternoon, Tuesday, May 14, we returned to the club's welcoming parlor for a spirited 2 p.m. Salon with John Douglas Thompson, an impressive actor who was earning plaudits as Kent in a Broadway presentation that starred Glenda Jackson in the title role of King Lear.

For information about previous highlights in the Guild's two decades of Speaking engagements, not only at multiple venues in New York, but at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in the Windy City, at the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, and at such institutions as the British Embassy, the National Press Club, the University Club, and the Woman's National Democratic Club in Washington, click


Our most recent Gielgud Award, presented on Monday, October 28, 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 year's presentation 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 this 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 ago, on April 19, 2004, the Guild joined the RSC and RADA in that resonant setting for a remarkable Gielgud Centenary Gala. This October's gathering vividly recalled that occasion. But it also commemorated two anniversaries that date 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" (to quote Michael Billington of The Guardian) that will open on Broadway in January.

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 powerful recitation 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.