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Shakespeare, During a Pandemic

Ellen Levitt

Posted on April 27, 2021 00:39

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Brooklyn's outdoor Shakespeare celebration returned with pandemic parameters. It's more significant than you'd think.

Did you realize that "Shakespeare lived his entire life in the shadow of bubonic plague"? He managed to survive and his career thrived, but many of his peers would not be alive due to a horrible disease that would come and go.

Last year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ditmas Park, Brooklyn festival dedicated to Shakespearean works was cancelled. I'd attended in 2019 and was so pleased that it returned in 2021. A small theater troupe called Brave New World Repertory brought back its celebration and a sizable number of people attended. 

Attendees had to register in advance and fill out a health survey; we had to wear masks; all performers were vaccinated; we were encouraged to spread out. This was in contrast to 2019 when people just ambled over and strolled through the street to watch actors and actresses recite Shakespeare sonnets

This year the cast recited nine different sonnets, joined together to sing two delightful madrigals, and danced. They were augmented by a few musicians--two percussionists for the dance, and a trio that performed folks songs.

Take note that this all was staged on house porches on Stratford Road (between Slocum Place and Matthews Court). A geographical homage to Shakespeare, right here in Kings County (Brooklyn's alternate name).

The celebration was staged for only one afternoon, but it seemed as if everyone from attendees to performers was thrilled to be there. Live theater, outdoor entertainment, cultural enrichment, and good ole Brooklyn spirit was on display.

In an ordinary year, New York City is host to various Shakespeare performances. During the warm weather we can usually attend free or low-cost outdoor and indoor performances of his plays. For nearly 60 years there have been Shakespeare plays held in Central Park in Manhattan, and many renowned thespians have participated. "Shakespeare in the Park" has long been an anticipated event during the summer in NYC; I've seen a handful of performances, including Julius Caesar. Other city parks such as Prospect Park and Socrates Park have held performances as well.  

But 2020 was a year lacking Shakespeare in NYC, and many people were saddened. Thus the Shakespeare on Stratford festival was a much welcomed event, and it looks like there will be more outdoor Shakespeare coming later this year!

Shakespeare is ever-popular, always relevant. His plays are touchstones for so many of us. References to his works abound. Most people will remember the times they've seen or read Shakespeare plays, or which sonnets they read in school (or on their own).

I couldn't help but compare Shakespeare's Bubonic Plague situation with our Covid mess. Just as there were repeated waves of Plague, there have been waves of Covid. But Shakespeare will continue to be part of society, and will once again be part of NYC, reopening ever more. People, please get vaccinated, and we'll get to see more Shakespeare and other performances. 

Ellen Levitt

Posted on April 27, 2021 00:39

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Source: WTOP

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