The number of candles on William Shakespeare's birthday cake could burn down an entire theatre, but less tragic events than that will mark the 435th anniversary of the playwright's birth, presumed to be April 23.
The milestone is being celebrated around the country. Here are just a few samples:
Hirsch will open the tribute with a reading of the prologue to Henry V. The non-profit Shakespeare Society will donate a horse named "Shakespeare" to the Mounted Parks Patrol. Cumming will also be reading a selection from the canon.
The event is hosted by New York parks commissioner Henry Stern, who will portray Laertes (from Hamlet) opposite the Polonious of Schuyler Chapin, the city's cultural affairs commissioner. Cumming and Hirsch will close the celebration, joining students who are performing scenes from Twelfth Night and Hamlet.
Open to the public, the event will take place 12:30 PM-1:30 PM, at the Shakespeare statue in Central Park's "literary walk" area (West of 64th Street & 5th Ave.).
The society is for fans of the Bard's work and offers readings and study programs. For Shakespeare Society information, call (212) 327-3399 or try the website at www.shakespearesociety.org.
* The Actors' Fund of America, at the Actors' Fund Nursing Home and Assisted Living Care Facility in Englewood, NJ., celebrates Edwin Forrest Day April 23. The annual fete honors the great American actor who was a controversial and popular interpreter of the Bard's work in the 19th century.
Festivities Noon-2:30 PM include readings, cocktails and a luncheon. Among special guests will be Corin Redgrave of Broadway's Not About Nightingales, brother of Actors' Fund trustee Lynn Redgrave. He will read from his favorite selection of Shakespeare. The celebration is not open to the public.
* One of the country's major Shakespeare birthday bashes is, not surprisingly, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. "Shakespeare's Birthday Open House" will be held Noon-4 PM April 25, two days after his presumed birth.
Last year, 2,000 visitors came to the open house.
The day will include free admission, entertainment, tours, activities and free birthday cake -- with Folger docent Gerry Kasarda cutting the cake at 3:30 PM as Queen Elizabeth I.
Music, song and dance in the Elizabethan Theatre and throughout the Folger will be performed by Musica Antiqua, Musica Oriana, and the Rock Creek Morris Women.
Musica Antiqua is a chamber orchestra specializing in performance on authentic instruments and will do a program entitled "Fantasie." Musica Oriana, a madrigal group of nine singers, will perform a half-hour program on-stage in the Old Reading Room, and will sing the rest of the afternoon in the Folger Great Hall and in the Theatre Lobby. The Rock Creek Morris Women will again don their bells and handkerchiefs and dance on the front lawn of the Folger all afternoon.
Anne Boleyn, played by Mary Ann Jung, will tell stories of life in 16th century England in the New Reading Room. Jung, who will dress in historical costume and speak Early Modern English, will also tell tales for a half-hour on stage in the Old Reading Room.
Nick Newlin will present "The Nicolo Whimsey Show" of comedy, slight of hand, and magical tricks in the Old Reading Room. He will also stroll in the Folger and outdoors throughout the day.
Activities include a treasure hunt for children, which relates to the current exhibition; Shakespearean fortune-telling; quill pen-writing; brooch-making; mask-making; potpourri-making; crown-decorating; face painting; ivy garland-making; and other Elizabethan crafts. There will also be a children's reading corner and Elizabethan games. Herb bread and jester collars will be for sale.
Tours of the Reading Rooms and the Elizabethan Garden.
April 25 is the one day of the year the Folger Reading Rooms are open to the public. The Reading Rooms feature 16th-century tapestries, paintings from scenes of the Bard's plays, and the famed "Seven Ages of Man" stained glass window. The Elizabethan Garden features an herb garden with plants popular in Shakespeare's time and mentioned in his plays.
Folger Shakespeare Library is at 201 East Capitol St., S.E., in Washington, DC. For public information, call the Folger box office at (202) 544- 7077. Or try the Folger website at www.folger.edu.
* On the West Coast, The Pasadena Shakespeare Company will present A Midsummer Night's Dream at its home in suite 296 of the Plaza Pasadena Mall (in the 300 E. block of Colorado Blvd.) April 23-May 30. Director David Paul Needles said that while his production emphasizes comedy and whimsy, "it also embraces the magical and ethereal elements of the piece." Call (626) 564-8564 for information.
-- By Kenneth Jones and Sean McGrath