Speaking of Shakespeare Link

Speaking of Shakespeare
We extend warm 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 we're now using online formats for most of our offerings. All but a handful 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, he 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 he 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.

Our first event of 2023, which occurred on February 21, was a delightful online conversation with F. MURRAY ABRAHAM. He 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.


We're now savoring an event that took place Tuesday evening, April 26, in WESTMINSTER ABBEY. One of the globe's most iconic settings, this venerable institution is renowned, among other things, 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). And 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 that permitted Mr. Hart to outline his approach to this special commission and allow viewers 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 11th 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 Gielgud Theatre exchange that helped prepare the way for this spring's celebration.

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.

Attendees included Guardian critic Michael Billington, who shared his reactions to the event on Twitter and said that the evening "struck just the right note: a mix of admiration for Gielgud and delight in his humour." 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.

Among other things, the occasion provided vivid reminders that Sir John will always be revered for his extraordinary career as an actor, director, and producer. These achievements were extolled with particular eloquence in the tributes 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, John and his wife Aileen were unable to join us at the Abbey, and he died a few months later. Click here for the lovely obituary that apppeared shortly thereafter in The Guardian.

In 1985 Sir John provided 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 by Scribners. A few years later he wrote 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 Poets' Corner commemoration, which was completely 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 of Catherine Allen, Eric Andrews, Sue Bellars, Letitia Chambers, Jan Denton, Jeffrey Hardy, Lisa Andrews Hobart, and Gerry Ohrstrom.


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 thereafter, 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.


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.


By design most of the Guild's offerings are admission-free; but of course 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, and we'll look forward to welcoming you to events such as our April 23 festivities at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.