Sunday, April 24, one day after William Shakespeare’s believed birth and death date, found us celebrating the Bard’s 400th here in Rochester.
The Lyric Theatre, in coordination with the Lyric Opera and the Rochester Community Players, hosted a celebration with performances for and by the ROC community.
The program provided some great comical takes on the classic works of Shakespeare, such as Serious Scenes from Shakespeare performed by theater group the Geriactors and the audience participatory activity titled “Elizabethan Your Mama…” in which the entire house threw Shakespearean insults of increasing intensity at each other, my favorite of which being “you, minion, are too saucy.” This, of course, was all complemented by a one-of-a-kind literary experience — hearing the works of Shakespeare rapped. “Rappin’ Dr. P,” better known as Dr. Bernard Planksy, had the audience clapping along with a rousing ‘rap’itation of a few of the Bard’s most famous soliloquies.
Staying true to the theme of showcasing the relevance of Shakespeare in the modern day, The Veterans Shakespeare Program, directed by Dr. Bernad Plansky, performed following an elegant recitation by Rob Kellogg, winner of the English Speaking Union Shakespeare competition of 2016. The Young, Open and Honest Players of Penfield, a group of remarkably young and talented performers, gave us a unique and modernized glimpse into a classic with Elsewhere in Elsinore: The Unseen Women in Hamlet.
Individual members of the community, such as Jeffery Jones, Professor Eugene L. Stelzig, and the entirety of the audience in a special performance of the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, made the event uniquely Rochester. Members of the Lyric Opera, including Monica Ramich, Ally Van Dusen, Andrew Magin, Samson McCrady and Julie Covach, presented several selections from Shakespeare in opera and on Broadway — and yes, we’re looking at you, West Side Story — and summed the afternoon up with a rendition of Brush Up Your Shakespeare.
Though this was one of the first ROC Shakespeare 2016 events, it is certainly not the last. Rochester is a wonderful city for the arts and the international celebration will continue locally with even more great events, all of which will continue to be posted on the organization’s website.
Happy birthday, Shakespeare!