400 Years of the Bard

by / Mar. 9, 2016 2am EST

Original-edition Shakespeare First Folios will be featured in exhibits at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and the University of Buffalo as part of the gala celebration locally and worldwide of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616. Both institutions own one of the rare and important volumes, printed in 1623—18 of the plays might have been lost forever if not preserved in the First Folio, including Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, and The Tempest. UB also owns and will be showing several later-edition 17th-century First Folios. 

The year-long local celebration—including numerous talks and conferences, theatrer and dance performances, film screenings and other events and festivities at locations around the city and region—a full list of happenings can be found on the celebration website—Google buffalobard—is just kicking into high gear. The actual death day—April 23, attested—is usually also taken as Shakespeare’s birthday—it was around that day in 1564, but the actual birthday is not attested—according to UB Shakespeare scholar Barbara Bono, who seems as much as anyone to be overseeing and coordinating the festivities, in addition to the website. Talks and conferences range from the esoteric academic to the more groundlings accessible. From the UB English Department and Center for Psychoanalysis and Culture presentation “From Ontological Desire to Ethical Desire: Lacan’s Hamlet versus Lacan’s Antigone,” to talks on “Reimagining the History Play in the Age of Margaret Thatcher,” and “Hamlet’s Kindness,” as well as on Shakespeare and near exact contemporary world literature figure—born a few years earlier, but died the same year—Cervantes. 

To the Nichols School Annual Student Shakespeare Conference, in conjunction this year with a Nardin Academy Shakespeare event called “Will Power,” both part of an area-wide Shakespeare’s Birthday Festival on April 23. The Nichols conference to feature papers on Shakespeare-related topics by high-school students from schools throughout the region, plus a talk by Sarah Enloe, the Director of Education at the American Shakespeare Center. The Nardin “Will Power” event is a day-long workshop on Shakespeare in and out of the classroom, for students and teachers and anyone else interested, and a talk by Emma Whipday, a Teaching Fellow at King’s College, Oxford, and the London Shakespeare Centre. All the Nichols Shakespeare Conference and “Will Power” events will be held at Nichols and are free and open to the public.

Other events in the Shakespeare’s Birthday Festival will include a reception at the downtown library in conjunction with the Nichols and Nardin conferences, including a Shakespeare First Folio birthday cake and guided tours of the First Folio exhibit that will comprise—in addition to the First Folio—various other Elizabethan era or thereabouts volumes newly restored for the occasion by Buffalo State art conservation students and riverrun scholars Lyudmyla Bua and Amanda Burr. Including a Geneva Bible printed in London in 1576; John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, a book of martyrs, from 1563; and John Hardyng’s contemporary English history chronicle, from 1543. Other volumes in the UB exhibit—besides the original-edition and three post-original-edition First Folios—will include 1590 and 1596 editions of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and a 1667 first edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Among theatrical performances—check the buffalobard website for times and venues—a Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts stage production of West Side Story; a Niagara County Community College production of Romeo and Juliet; and a Peace of the City Ministries production entitled Shakespeare Comes to (716). And Shakespeare in Delaware Park—on its new stage this year—productions of The Winter’s Tale and The Taming of the Shrew. And UB Theater and Dance Department productions of Midsummer Night’s Dream and Return to the Forbidden Planet, a sci-fi and rock and roll remake of The Tempest, featuring such classic rock anthems as “Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Good Vibrations.”

Among movies—again check the website for times and places—the Akira Kurosawa masterpiece Ran, based on King Lear, the rarely seen Orson Welles masterpiece Chimes at Midnight, about Falstaff, with Welles in the Falstaff part, and Shakespeare Behind Bars, about a prison production of The Tempest

And much more. The website is extensive. Other talks on“Shakespeare’s Afterlives: Contemporary Approaches to Shakespeare 400 Years Later,” “Shakespeare in the Electronic Global World,” and on “Shakespeare Studies in North Korea.” And on September 23, at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, a talk by writer Dava Sobel, author of Galileo’s Daughter, among other Renaissance science topic best-sellers.