Okay, no one's actually certain that April 23, 1564 was William Shakespeare's birthdate, but that's the accepted day, and therefore theatre companies have centered various tributes and celebrations to the world's greatest poetic playwright on or around the 23rd.
In New Jersey on that date, the Actors' Fund celebrates Edwin Forrest Day (he was a legendary Shakespearean actor in early America) with cocktails, a luncheon and readings from the Bard. A nice touch will be the opening of the Living Legacies Project, which offers oral histories and portraits of the entertainers who live in the Fund's Nursing Home and Assisted Living Care Facility.
Performers a half-century younger will be across the river at NY's Frog & Peach Theatre Company, beginning previews of Shakespeare's Measure For Measure. Frog & Peach founder Ted Zurkowski directs the comedy/drama about a man corrupted by power. The show runs at the Theatre at the West-Park Church on West 86th St. through May 17.
In Pennsylvania, soap actor Mark LaMura (All My Children) will host a "Birthday Party for the Bard" at the King of Prussia Mall in Center Valley. The noon celebration, Apr. 25, will feature LaMura performing Shakespeare speeches, and entertainment by performers from the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival's Renaissance-style Green Show. Also, PSF producing director Gerard J. Schubert will perform two sonnets.
Even TV is getting into the act. The cable channel Bravo is scheduled to air the documentary, "Shakespeare in America." Check local listings for times on the 23rd. Chicago's Equity Library Theatre jumped the gun a bit on the birthday by offering a special celebration at Lincoln Park, Apr. 18. The 22nd annual event featured an hour of scenes and monologues from the Bard's plays, along with period music, anecdotes, and Renaissance Faire revelers. Celebration founder and coproducer Josephine Forsberg co-sponsored the event at ELT.
Shakespeare's plays include Hamlet, Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Coriolanus, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Henry V, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, All's Well That Ends Well, The Comedy of Errors, A Winter's Tale, Much Ado About Nothing, Troilus and Cressida, As You Like It and Richard II.
Oddly enough, there are no plays by Shakespeare currently on Broadway, though The Herbal Bed (closing this weekend) is about Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna Hall, and Lincoln Center will be mounting an all-star Twelfth Night in June.
On Apr. 4, Hal Holbrook received the 11th annual "Will Award," given by Washington DC's Shakespeare Theatre to artists who make "a significant contribution to classical theatre in America." Holbrook will get to make a further contribution via the Shakespeare Theatre when he appears as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice there next year.
Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616.
-- By David Lefkowitz