Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 16
 
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
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Princeton Rep Company Celebrates the Bard This Sunday on the Green at Palmer Square

Linda Arntzenius

Fans of the Bard will be treated to a celebration of the works of Shakespeare this Sunday in Palmer Square when the Princeton Repertory Company/Princeton Rep Shakespeare Festival presents Shakespeare in the Square.

The annual tribute to Shakespeare marks the Bard’s 443rd birthday on Sunday, April 22 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Sponsored by Palmer Square, the event will begin with an introduction by the day’s masters of ceremony David Newton of Palmer Square Management and Susan Garrett of the Princeton Repertory Company at 2 p.m. and continue until 4 p.m. with readings, music, recitations, and poems.

“Expect an afternoon of witty repartee and fun trivia about the Bard,” said Ms. Garrett.

In case of rain, the event will be moved inside the Nassau Inn.

As with much of Shakespeare’s personal history, the date of his birth has been veiled by time. His birthplace of Stratford-Upon-Avon takes April 23 as the official date. By this reckoning, Princeton Rep’s “Shakespear-e-thon” is a day early. No matter. Let disputes rage over dates and authorship, Princeton Rep’s focus is on sonnets, plays, songs, and soliloquies.

This year’s event will feature New Jersey poets, composers, musicians, actors, and Shakespeare lovers who will recite or perform the Bard’s sonnets, monologues, and scenes.

For the first time, the celebration will include premiere performances of specially commissioned original poems and musical compositions on Shakespearean themes.

Participating artists were asked to compose works inspired by the theme of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 21:

So is it not with me as with that Muse
Stirr’d by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse
Making a couplement of proud compare,
With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.
O’ let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fix’d in heaven’s air:
Let them say more than like of hearsay well;
I will not praise that purpose not to sell.

Guest artists who rose to the challenge to tread the boards on Sunday afternoon include Trenton’s star slam poet Post Midnight who will present a new Shakespeare-based spoken word piece; national prize-winning poet Elizabeth Socolow, whose first book of poems Laughing at Gravity: Conversations with Isaac Newton won the Barnard Poetry Prize in 1987, will read an original poem based on Sonnet 21; and performance poet Jack Wiler, who is well known on the New York City poetry scene, will read from his own body of work.

Actors from the Princeton Repertory Company will be performing, including Donald Kimmel, Erik Sher, Nell Gwynn, and others.

Pianist, composer and arranger Vince di Mura, a veteran performer on concert stages from Aguascalientes, Mexico to Seattle, Washington, will present an excerpt from For Lost Words, his musicalization of nine poems by Yusef Komunyakaa, the first African-American man to win a Pultizer Prize for poetry.

Composer Moshe Budmor, professor emeritus of music at The College of New Jersey, and former conductor of Lashir, the Jewish Community chorus of Princeton, has set three Shakespearean sonnets to music which will be performed by professional classical guitarist, Gianni Donati, and mezzo-soprano, Linda Mindlin, who is a master faculty member of the Westminster Conservatory.

Maury Tyler’s drum circle, among others, will provide musical interludes between the spoken word performances.

U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative members lending their voices to the celebration include Lois Harrod, Elizabeth “Mimi” Danson, Harvey Steinberg, Judith McNally, Emily Nguyen, and Carlos Hernandez Pena, host of the Bilingual Voices Program at the Princeton Public Library, and others.

Ms. Harrod, who hosts the U.S. 1 Poets Invite series at Princeton Public Library, will also present an original poem based on Sonnet 21, as will Mr. Pena.

Ms. McNally will read and play flute accompaniment in an exchange of letters between Hamlet and Ophelia written by Ms. Nguyen of the Princeton University Library.

Princeton University students will perform original songs composed by Ronne Penoi for her senior thesis production of The Tempest, recently presented at the Berlind Theater.

In addition to the staged performances, The Arts Council of Princeton will conduct a Shakespeare’s birthday card-making workshop for families and the Princeton Public Library will include the event in its Poetry Podcast Blog.

“The Green at Palmer Square is a perfect setting for Shakespeare,” said Princeton Rep’s Producing Artistic Director Victoria Liberatori. “In keeping with the Princeton Rep tradition of making theatre accessible to everyone, Shakespeare in the Square performances are presented annually on Palmer Square and are completely free.”

The free event will include a traditional birthday cake for all in attendance served as the afternoon’s finale, courtesy of Chez Alice.

Audience members are encouraged to take part in the celebration by reciting or performing a sonnet, song, soliloquy, or simply by reading a passage from Shakespeare’s work.

As in years past, the celebration that is also known as BYOB — Bring Your Own Bard Birthday Blast — is an opportunity for everyone, including actors, poets, and just plain Shakespeare lovers, to contribute to the afternoon’s readings of favorite selections from the Bard or from favorite contemporary poets on Shakespearean themes.

Local eatery Winberie’s will offer an expanded menu on the day of hot dogs, hamburgers, vegetarian chili, wine, and beer.

Princeton Rep

Since it was founded in 1984 as a not-for-profit professional theatre company, Princeton Rep has developed a reputation for innovation, site-specific productions, New Jersey premieres of contemporary plays, and reinterpretations of classics.

Shakespeare in the Square began in 1995 in partnership with Palmer Square.

“Every year the event continues to be well-received by the Princeton community,” said Ms. Liberatori, who harbors the hope that one day the Princeton Shakespeare Festival will become a nationally regarded Shakespeare Festival. “We still have several challenges before it happens but that’s still the dream.”

For more information about Princeton Rep Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare in the Square, call (609) 921-3682 or visit www.princetonrep.org.

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