Welcome to The Shakespear Guild

We extend warm greetings to those who are visiting this site for the first time, and fervent thanks to those who have attended and contributed to our many programs. For details about recent initiatives -- often in atmospheric settings that have included the historic San Miguel Chapel in Santa Fe, the intimate Bethlehem Chapel in Washington's National Cathedral, and the venerable Guildhall in a part of London that was quite familiar to Shakespeare -- we encourage you to browse these pages, clicking on the blue links that serve as navigation devices. We'll also be grateful if you feel moved to support our educational and cultural endeavors by providing a tax-exempt donation, by enrolling as a member, or by registering for one or more of our upcoming events.


The Guild's next event will be a Speaking of Shakespeare program at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, February 28, in Manhattan's National Arts Club (15 Gramercy Park South) with filmmaker and theater producer Eleanor Bergstein, the brilliant artist who introduced the world to "Dirty Dancing." That engagement will be followed by NAC conversations with director Nagle Jackson on Wednesday, March 21, with journalist Edward Tenner on Wednesday, April 18, and with New Yorker favorite Adam Gopnik on Thursday, June 14. More SOS attractions, many of them in other settings, will be announced in the near future.

Our most recent offering at the NAC, on Monday, January 29, focused on the inspiring efforts of Stephen Burdman, founder and artistic director of the New York Classical Theatre. Three days later, as part of a luncheon gathering at the Woman's National Democratic Club in DC, we chatted with esteemed actor and director Keith Baxter, who is currently delighting Washington audiences in three roles (the Ghost, the Player King, and the Gravedigger) in a production of Hamlet that highlights Michael Kahn's culminating season as Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. One of our attendees, Leslie Weisman, generously shared some reflections on the portion of that dialogue that focused on Orson Welles, the actor, director, and producer with whom Mr. Baxter worked when he portrayed Prince Hal in Chimes at Midnight, a 1966 film classic that starred Welles as Falstaff and Sir John Gielgud as King Henry IV.

We opened our 2017-18 SOS season on Friday, October 6, with educator Joanna Read, who heads the London Academy of Dramatic Art (LAMDA). A few days later, on Wednesday, October 18, we enjoyed a delightful evening with Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks. Then on Monday, November 6, we chatted with WNET executive Stephen Segaller, who offered a sneak preview of this spring's attractions in a series called Shakespeare Uncovered, a three-year, 18-episode co-production with the BBC that provides scintillating introductions to the most popular plays in the dramatic repertory. For information about programs that took place in the first half of 2017, click here.


One of the highlights of an eventful 2017 occurred on Sunday, October 15, when the Guild bestowed its prestigious Gielgud Award on playwright David Hare. Sir David is the first dramatist to receive a Gielgud, and attendees were deeply moved by the eloquent remarks he delivered as he accepted this year's beautiful Clive Francis trophy. The ceremony took place as part of a UK Theatre Awards luncheon in one of London's most legendary institutions, an edifice Shakespeare refers to in Richard III. And as usual it received extensive media coverage, with illustrated stories in such news sources as Broadway World, What's On Stage, The Stage, and Theatre News.

Among the things that made this presentation special was that it reinforced a gathering Sir David had graced with his presence on April 27, when he joined a previous Gielgud recipient. Dame Judi Dench, in a gathering at which an English Heritage plaque was placed on the Cowley Street residence that had been Sir John's home from 1945 to 1976. The man behind this memorial to Sir John's legacy was John Miller, a distinguished biographer and arts presenter who serves on the Guild's Advisory Council; he presided over a festive occasion that included eloquent remarks not only by Sir David and Dame Judi, but by actor Michael Pennington. Click here to watch thhe unveiling in a Facebook video that has been kindly made available by Christian Bace of English Heritage.


As we look forward to the Guild's upcoming engagements, among them this summer's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in one of the most welcoming amphitheaters in the nation, we're savoring a presentation of The Tempest that took place August 23-31 at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. More than 1500 attendees applauded a production that featured superb acting, entrancing music and special effects, and an exquisite set by designer Jay Bush. To learn more about Shakespeare in the Garden, read the informative background article by Jennifer Levin and the judicious review by James M. Keller in Pasatiempo, the Santa Fe New Mexican's unique cultural supplement.

This production was brilliantly directed by Nagle Jackson, who 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." His 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 a Spanish army was seeking to establish its "brave new world" in a terrain that had long been occupied by earlier settlers, this rendering of a classic score proved especially engaging for residents of the American Southwest.

For background about The Tempest, see the foreword that Sir John Gielgud generously contributed to Mr. Andrews' 1994 Everyman Shakespeare edition of the play, as well as the Editor's Introduction that followed it. You might also enjoy listening to 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. And finally, you might be interested in letters that appreciative attendees published in the New Nexican, as well as in some "Reflections on The Tempest" that Mr. Andrews presented in late September at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.


On Friday, February 24, As a prelude for its August 2017 Tempest, the Guild co-sponsored a resonant February entertainment in what may well be America's oldest church. A co-production with Severall Friends, an early-music ensemble that draws its name from Elizabethan composer Matthew Locke, Shakespeare at San Miguel took place in a chapel whose foundations date from the poet's lifetime. Highlighted by acclaimed instrumentalists and singers, the concert featured eleven of Shakespeare's sonnets, which were artfully interspersed with thematically-related lyrics by Thomas Campion, William Dowland, and other composers. Click here for musicologist James M. Keller's detailed preview in Pasatiempo.


A few weeks later, on Saturday, March 25, the Guild played a role in a Washington National Cathedral memorial service for E. R. Braithwaite, an author renowned for To Sir, With Love, a 1959 best-seller that became a celebrated 1967 film with Sidney 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.