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, have attracted the NAC's largest audiences of the 2021 season.

At the moment we're focused on a special celebration that will take place Saturday evening, April 23, in Westminster Abbey. One of the globe's most iconic settings, this historic institution is renowned, among other things, for Poets' Corner, a sacred spot where legendary authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare are honored along with a significant number of other distinguished artists, among them performers such as Henry Irving (the first actor to be knighted) and Laurence Olivier (a star whose name is attached to to the awards that recognize each year's leading theatrical achievements in London's West End). We're delighted to announce that a new memorial, a floor plaque to commemorate the life and legacy of Olivier's most eminent contemporary, SIR JOHN GIELGUD, will be dedicated as the highlight of the Guild's upcoming celebration of Shakespeare's 458th birthday and Gielgud's 118th. Details about this special gathering, and about several programs to prepare the way for it, will be provided shortly.


Our most recent event, on Sunday, September 19, was a delightful conversation with IAN MCKELLEN, who was thrilling audiences in a production of Hamlet at Theatre Royal Windsor. Now 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 acting career in 1891 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Co-hosted by cabaret artist Shana Farr and Guild president John Andrews, it was presented under the auspices of The Players. To watch it, click here.

Another recent offering -- also hosted by Ms. Farr, who serves as Vice-President for The Players -- was a wide-ranging discussion with JOHN ANDREWS himself. To enjoy this dialogue, which occurred Tuesday, June 22, click here. Two months earlier, on Saturday, April 24, Ms. Farr and Mr. Andrews had co-hosted a 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 recent offering -- also hosted by Ms. Farr, who serves as Vice-President for The Players -- was a wide-ranging discussion with Mr. Andrews himself. To enjoy this dialogue, which occurred Tuesday, June 22, click here. Two months earlier, on Saturday, April 24, Ms. Farr and Mr. Andrews had co-hosted a 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.

An earlier highlight, on Monday, June 14, was a delightful conversation between Mr. Andrews and 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 had asked Ms. Stamberg, who'd 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 nterviewed 1998 Gielgud laureate Zoe Caldwell and her husband Robert Whitehead at the Folger Shakespeare Library. What led to this summer's program with her was a remarkable new book, Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of 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 chat with the first of its title characters, a legend whose many honors include a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.

Another spring attraction, on Tuesday, April 20, focused on playwright DAVID HARE. Sir David took part in our 1999 Gielgud Award presentation to Dame Judi Dench at the Barrymore Theatre in New York, and he 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.

Looking back to other highlights in a series that has attracted thousands of viewers from around the globe, one was a delightful exchange with IAN MCKELLEN. Sir Ian had received the Guild's inaugural Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts during a historically resonant 1996 ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. And he rejoined us Wednesday, March 3, for an NAC@Home program that focused primarily on his dozens of Shakespearean roles. To watch it, click here.

On Wednesday, February 24, we chatted with one of Sir Ian's most cherished theatrical colleagues, 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 a few miles south of London, click here.

In late December we saluted 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. A young Judi Dench influenced Sir Richard's decision to become a director, and he took part in the 1999 Gielgud ceremony that paid tribute to her. Sir Richard 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 our most visionary dramatic artists.

We'll soon be announcing future engagements, among them one with ROSEMARY HARRIS, who took part in our 2004 Gielgud Centenary Gala. A member of the Broadway Hall of Fame, Ms. Harris is celebrated not only for her acclaimed stage performances on both sides of the Atlantic, but for her stellar roles on film and television.

On September 13 the Guild joined Santa Fe's Lensic Performing Arts Center, for a lively dialogue with JIM DALE, a celebrated and remarkably versatile 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.

And click here to watch a resonant conversation with Harvard's STEPHEN GREENBLATT that was recorded in late June but held for realease until August 19. It was a wide-ranging exchange that 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 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 an afternoon session with F. MURRAY ABRAHAM, a gathering that permitted the Guild to introduce an actor who grew up in the Southwest to his admirers at Santa Fe's Lensic Performing Arts Center. To watch this conversation, click here. A few weeks later, on August 12, we enjoyed a delightful National Arts Club exchange with actor JOHN DOUGLAS THOMPSON. He had recently portrayed the Duke of York in the New York Public Theater's WNYC audio presentation of Richard II, and that was one of the topics we addressed with him. To watch this engaging dialogue, which was promoted by both Broadway World and Thought Gallery and elicited questions from viewers around the nation, click here.

Many of the admirers who joined us for that event had also participated in a May 26 dialogue with JAMES SHAPIRO of Columbia University. Click here to watch an NAC discussion that explored 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 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 stately Hampden-Booth Library, was recorded by Ed's son, Leo Sorel, and thanks to him and his colleague James Salzano we hope to make it available soon on YouTube.

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).

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.

In the interim we're pleased to note that among the digital resources that are now available 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 of 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 election, Mr. Marks treated us to incisive comments about what he observed as 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 remarkably versatile performing artist whose work has been celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic 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.

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, which he analyzed as illustrations of the same rhetorical techniques that a brilliant playwright employed in his dramatic masterpieces.

Click here for background on the Guild's signature Speaking of Shakespeare series, which began in 1998 at the National Press Club in Washington, and has included programs at the British Embassy, the Shakespeare Theatre Company, the University 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.

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.

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