Speaking of Shakespeare Link

Speaking of Shakespeare
We opened our 2019 SOS programming on Monday, January 28, at the NATIONAL ARTS CLUB with actor, director, producer, and author DAKIN MATTHEWS. Mr. Matthews was riveting audiences as Judge Taylor in a Broadway presentation of To Kill a Mockingbird that was on its way to multiple Tony Awards, and during what turned out to be a memorable evening, he discussed not only his pivotal role in that play but his many contributions to the presentation of other classics on stage and screen. He then concluded a special gathering with a brief master class on scansion, focusing brilliantly on ways to approach a famous speech in The Merchant of Venice.

The following night, Tuesday, January 29, we moved next door to the venerable Dining Room and Theatre of THE PLAYERS for a 7 p.m. gathering with FROG & PEACH, a company that was founded by members of The Actors Studio to explore new approaches to Shakespeare's classics. Between February 22 and March 17 this energetic troupe presented Twelfth Night at the SHEEN CENTER (18 Bleecker Street), and director LYNNEA BENSON and her talented performers offered vivid illustrations of the artistry of an ensemble that has featured such luminaries as Karen Lynn Gorney, Earl Hyman, and Austin Pendleton.

Earlier that day, at 2 p.m. in the beautiful Parlor of the NAC, the Guild helped inaugurate a new series of Afternoon Salons, focusing a gentle spotlight on ALICE QUINN of the Poetry Society of America, who reminisced about her work with some of the most influential writers of our era. Among the participants in this scintillating conversation were two prestigious sculptors, BABETTE BLOCH and MARC MELLON, who were our guests for a similar gathering on Monday, February 25. That event was followed a few hours later by an 8 p.m. Speaking of Shakespeare dialogue with acclaimed playwright and director NAGLE JACKSON.

A few weeks later, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, we enjoyed a special PLAYERS evening with JIM DALE, a multitalented performer who garnered an Oscar nomination as composer of the theme song for "Georgy Girl," who earned acclaim as an actor with Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company and later won a Tony Award for his title role in "Barnum," and who holds multiple Grammy Awards for his narrative recordings of "Harry Potter." The following day, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 14, we were back at the NAC for a wide-ranging SOS conversation with ETHAN MCSWEENY, who had worked in such prestigious venues as the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington and had recently become Artistic Director of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia.

We then drew an eventful week to a close on Friday the Ides of March, with an NAC Salon that featured a resonant tour of THE PLAYERS. RAYMOND WEMMLINGER, who oversees the Hampden-Booth Theatre Library and presides over The Players Foundation, welcomed us to the final home of the club's founder, Edwin Booth. He reminded us that one of the tragedian's favorite protagonists was Brutus, a role he'd played during a benefit presentation of Julius Caesar on November 25, 1864, at New York's Winter Garden Theatre, and one that his younger brother made notorious when he staged his own "lofty scene" five months later at Ford's Theatre in Washington. (For background on what has been described as the most dramatic moment in American history, click here and follow the blue links in the opening paragraph.)

In April we focused on attractions that commemorated Shakespeare's 455th birthday. The first of these was a 2 p.m. Salon on Tuesday the 23rd, at the NATIONAL ARTS CLUB with filmmaker MELINDA HALL, who provided samples of the fascinating interviews she's recorded with stars such as F. Murray Abraham, Stacy Keach, Sir Ben Kingsley, Estelle Parsons, and Liev Schreiber for a fascinating YouTube series called How Shakespeare Changed My Life. A few hours later we moved next door to THE PLAYERS for a 7 p.m. presentation of Ever the Twain: William Shakespeare in Mark Twain's America, drawing on a script that had been presented twice at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. The following day, at 2 p.m. on Wednesday the 24th, we enjoyed an informative session about The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey with Artistic Director BONNIE J. MONTE.

We enjoyed 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. NAC 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.

A few weeks later we welcomed the arrival of summer on Tuesday, June 25, with a special afternoon salon that focused on cultural leader
LINDA ZAGARIA, who presides over the NATIONAL ARTS CLUB. We then moved next door for an evening at THE PLAYERS that featured 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.

After a summer recess 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 has been augmenting his regular theater reviews with a unique series of performance-oriented observations about leading contenders for the 2020 presidential election, Mr. Marks treated us to incisive comments about what he noticed, for instance, when he looked in on the campaigns of Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.

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