'Shakespeare at Yale' this week: April 16-22
“Overfamiliar yet always unknown, the enigma of Hamlet is emblematic of the greater enigma of Shakespeare himself: a vision that is everything and nothing, a person who was…everyone and no one, an art so infinite that it contains us, and will go on enclosing those likely to come after us.”
— Harold Bloom, in the introduction to “Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human”
A talk by Yale professor and “Bardolator” Harold Bloom; performances of “Hamlet” and “West Side Story”; and a program that promises to present an “abridged” version of all 38 of the playwright’s tragedies, comedies and histories in a single evening are among the highlights of the “Shakespeare at Yale” celebration this week.
“Bloom on Shakespeare”
Yale professor Harold Bloom, the author of “Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human,” which has been described as “the culmination of a lifetime of reading, writing about, and teaching Shakespeare,” will read and explain texts that best exemplify his view of the Bard’s achievements on Friday, April 20. Free and open to the public, the talk takes place in Battell Chapel, corner of College and Elm streets, at 4 p.m.
Those who plan to attend the talk by Bloom, Sterling Professor of English, are advised to familiarize themselves with the following passages: “Henry IV, Part I:” Act IV, scene ii, lines 11–48, Act V scene iii, lines 30–39, Act V, scene iii, lines 58–61, Act V, scene iv, lines 111–129; “Hamlet:” Act II, scene ii, lines 550–605, Act III, scene i, lines 55–89; “Antony and Cleopatra:” Act V, scene iii, lines 236–298.
“Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Ambition”
David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English, will describe how Abraham Lincoln learned to recognize and to fear ambition partly from his reading of Shakespeare in a free and public talk on Thursday, April 19. His lecture — which will touch on passages from “Macbeth,” “Hamlet,” “Henry IV,” and “Julius Caesar,” as well as letters and speeches by Lincoln — will take place at 4 p.m. in Rm. 102 of Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High St.
Among the classes Bromwich has taught at Yale are “Lincoln in Thought and Action” and “Shakespeare’s Political Plays.”
Talks plus performances
Shakespeare in Brief: “Hamlet”
Shakespeare in Brief is a series of talks and performances designed to integrate Shakespeare scholarship and staging. Each event lasts 45 minutes or less and consists of a talk on a piece in the “Remembering Shakespeare” exhibition in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 121 Wall St. , as well as a performance by undergraduate actors.
The “Hamlet” event will include a staging of Act III, scene iv (the “closet” scene), a preview of the production directed by Deb Margolin (see below). The performance will be followed by a gallery talk on “Hamlet” in the First Folio by David Kastan, professor in the English Department and co-curator of the Beinecke Shakespeare exhibition. The event is free and open to the public.
“Character Studies: Portraying Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ in Words and Image”
Two Yale experts will offer their insights on how visual artists and performers use their respective skills to interpret Shakespeare’s work. Focusing on the painting “Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the Lady Anne” (1896), by Edwin Austin Abbey, Helen Cooper, curator of American paintings and sculpture at the Yale Art Gallery, will examine interpretations of the wooing of Lady Anne from Shakespeare’s play “Richard III” through the artist’s perspective. Murray Biggs, associate professor of theater studies and English, will discuss different theatrical interpretations of the scene and its significance within “Richard III.” Finally, undergraduate student performers will act out the scene in front of the painting itself. This program takes place at Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St., Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21, at 2 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
Students in Deborah Margolin’s course “The Actor and the Text: Hamlet” offer this full production of the tragedy Bloom has described as “the most experimental play ever written.” In this production directed by Margolin (a prize-winning playwright and performance artist in her own right), the actors are challenged to confront the text of “Hamlet” ignoring previous interpretations of the play and the historical forces that influenced Shakespeare in his day.
“Hamlet” is being performed at the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. Performance times are 8 p.m. on April 19 and 21 and 7 p.m. on April 20. “Hamlet” is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.
“West Side Story”
“West Side Story” — perhaps the most widely known Shakespearean adaptation brought to the stage — will be performed Thursday-Saturday, April 19–21, at the Off Broadway Theater, 41 Broadway. The musical, written by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein, is based on the story of “Romeo and Juliet” and was first performed on Broadway in 1957. The stage musical was then adapted into a film by the same title in 1961, which won 10 Academy Awards later that year.
Yale senior Taylor Vaughn Lasley, who is staging the musical as her senior project, will explore the differences between Shakespeare’s work, the original musical and the film adaptation. “The cast, crew and live orchestra, comprised entirely of Yale students, are excited to bring America’s favorite musical to Yale’s campus this April,” say the production organizers. Performances are at 8 p.m. nightly, with a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Saturday.
The performances are free and open to the public, although reservations are required. To obtain free tickets, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, number of tickets requested, and contact information. You may place up to four reservations under the same name.
Machiavelli’s “L’Andria” (“The Girl from Andros”)
Also part of the “Shakespeare at Yale” festival is the first performance of the first English translation of Niccolò Machiavelli’s play “L’Andria” (“The Girl from Andros”), one of the first comedies represented in the early modern world. The author of infamous advice to a young prince on how to wield political power, Machiavelli wrote two adaptations of the play in the Tuscan vernacular between 1504/5 and 1514. The play depicts the struggle between an ancient and a new world order through the conflict between an older father and his son.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, April 19-21, in Stiles-Morse Crescent Theater, 19 Tower Pkwy. The play is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”
“How can the sheer brilliance and splendor of William Shakespeare’s plays be portrayed in a single evening?” ask the organizers of this inventive program. “We don’t have a clue, but we’re going to try anyway!” The program featuring bridged versions of all 37 of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies will be presented at 8 p.m. Saturday-Monday, April 21–23 in Rm. Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High St The performances are free and open to the public, but reservations are required.
Music at the Whitney: “Shakespeare Song in Translation”
Song texts from Shakespeare’s plays were known throughout Europe and were of particular interest to 19th-century composers of many nationalities. These settings in German, French, Russian, and Swedish will be presented by singers and pianists enrolled in Richard Lalli’s class “The Performance of Vocal Music.” Composers will include Schubert, Strauss, Fauré, Chausson, Glière, Medtner and Sibelius. The concert is at the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St., Wednesday, April 18, 4:30–5:45 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.
“Balcony Scene: A New Musical”
This original musical by Mary Ann Frank, Andrew Rubenoff and David Sasso is set during the mayhem of tech week for a junior high production of “Romeo and Juliet.”
“A coming-of-age story which finds unexpectedly comic parallels to its source material, ‘Balcony Scene’ is also a valentine to Shakespeare, to middle school and to the unsung heroes of the theater,” say the show’s creators, all of whom are associated with Yale, including ties to the Schools of Drama and Medicine and to the Department of Psychology. This event will take place Friday, April 20, at 7 p.m. in the Theater Studies ballroom, 220 York St. It is free and open to the public.