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“Requiem Birthsong for William Shakespeare”

on the occasion of the 400th Anniversary of his passing

by Dan McCleary

(from Dan’s speech at this month’s TSC Gala)

“We see ourselves in the boy fishing for the first time.

In the woman much older now in her wheelchair.

We quietly revel in taking a moment to guide a young person we don’t know.

We all want to pass ourselves on.

We want to see ourselves in our leaders.

We want to see our values expressed in our city.

We need another person to reflect us.

But we also require the problem, the defeat, the death to take our focus from ourselves to others.

The plays of William Shakespeare are still produced more today, still read more today, than any other play. What he writes is intimate to him and personally developed. His craft, though, is in placing his focus on the self WITHIN his community, the religions that surround him, the political debates, the woods, the court, his country’s history, the world’s future, the cosmos.

As Shakespeare did 400 years ago this month, we will all die from this earth. We can have solace in this shared experience. These bodies, fellow travelers, will go. Ours are small material on a small planet in a galaxy of billions of stars among billions of other galaxies. Billions of years old and billions of years to go.

WE are finite.

Is it any wonder, then, that we all share an innate need to know ourselves, to know we must have an impact on the world and those around us and those to come. Of course. Of course we want to know how to act. Of course we feel the need to define ourselves, to make our little time on our little street huge and important and meaningful. Of course we need others to know us so we can feel we exist in the middle of the night when the rest of the street sleeps. Of course. So of course we construct theories and miracles and narratives that allow us to comprehend our existence and our passing.

For many of us, Shakespeare provides this narrative, but also the embrace of mystery.

In Shakespeare’s poetic world, the true prophets are often madmen, the blind, the outsiders, the poor, the clowns, the fools. In his world, women and those in the minority not only achieve equality, they often lead the narrative, they forgive the men, they sacrifice. In his world, monsters, fairies, and murderers cry to dream again, cry for forgiveness, cry for humanity. Shakespeare awakens them to their true selves. He appeals to our collective unconscious.

Over four hundred years ago, England turned to William Shakespeare to teach its history and its new language.

Now, you and I turn to Shakespeare to give us language to articulate what might be madness, what might be fantasy, what might possibly be peace. His endurance lies in his multiplicity of ideas and arguments, together with his poetic restraint from imposing his answers on them. The poet in him respects you and me 400 years after his death. You and I turn to Shakespeare in order to recognize the beauty in what is naturally so, to recognize our natural compulsion to human compassion.

You and I speak as we speak, think as we think, love as we love, act as we do (or don’t) in part because of William Shakespeare.

In this moment, we honor his time on Earth.

It is with this passion and spirit that Tennessee Shakespeare Company was born here, and why eight years later we steadily grow, seeking now a permanent home.
William Shakespeare is for everyone.

The End.”

News

  • TSC Announces Four New Members
  • Eighth Season Announced
  • The Oliver Experiment
  • Midsummer Night
  • Mayor Visits R&J Project in Action

Tennessee Shakespeare Company Announces Four New Members to its Board of Directors

Memphis, TN – Tennessee Shakespeare Company, the Mid-South’s professional classical theatre and education organization, announced the addition of four new members to its Board of Directors, led by President Owen B. Tabor, M.D.

Now in the midst of its eighth season, TSC has expanded the Board to its largest membership.  The Board is made up of 26 members and now six Emeritus members.

New members voted onto the Board beginning FY16 for their first three-year terms are:

Elise L. Jordan, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer with FedEx Express.

Dorothy O. Kirsch, Memphis philanthropist with a long history of supporting the arts and culture in the Mid-South.

Anne Johnson Mead, partner at the law firm of Butler, Sevier, Hinsley & Reid, PLLC, focusing her practice on litigation, collaborative law, and mediation.  Anne is a member of the Tennessee and Memphis Bar Associations, and serves on the Board for the Family Law Section of the Memphis Bar.

Tracy Vezina Patterson, Director of Alumni Relations at Rhodes College.  She is an alumna of Rhodes College and the University of Memphis School of Law.  Tracy is actively involved in several ministries of St. George's Episcopal Church and has served on the Vestry and as Senior Warden.  Past civic involvements include Memphis Civitan and Special Kids and Families.

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Tennessee Shakespeare Company
Announces Eighth Season of Plays and Education Programs:

Celebration 400
1616-2016

(Memphis, TN, September 1, 2015) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company (TSC), the Mid-South’s professional classical theatre, today announced its 2015-16 performance season, which commemorates the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death with a celebration of plays, readings, salons, feasts, and extensive programming for children.

TSC continues its cultural/educational partnerships with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance and with Dixon Gallery & Gardens.  Full productions of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well (Dixon) and Henry V (UofM) will feature professional, AEA casts from around the country and Memphis.

The Company also partners with the Memphis Hunt & Polo Club to feature three weeks of feasts and two-hour readings of Shakespeare plays that TSC has not yet produced.  The Southern Literary Salons continue in September with a focus on Harper Lee, and in February spotlighting Ernest Hemingway in Key West.  The Seventh Annual Shakespeare Gala at Germantown Performing Arts Center moves to April to commemorate Celebration 400 during the month of the 400th anniversary.

Running concurrently with the performance season are the expanded offerings of TSC’s Education and Outreach Department.  These include a newly-authored schools show touring the southeastern U.S., student matinees, playshops and residencies, expanded Summer camps, and the recently-trademarked Romeo and Juliet Project™ literacy/non-violence residency.

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Sponsored by Theatrical Rights Worldwide (NYC)

Presents its Third Musical in Development August 15 on the University of Memphis mainstage:

The Oliver Experiment

What if your entire life were a Broadway musical…and you had no clue?

Featuring Broadway’s Brightest Stars

Memphis, TN (July 27, 2015) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company, in partnership with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance, presents its third and final developing musical reading on the U of M mainstage with The Oliver Experiment by Jeremy Desmon and Jeff Thomson on August 15 at 7:00 pm.

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Midsummer Night

Live music, glow sticks, and power chords!
Featuring Broadway’s Katrina Lenk and Eric B. Anthony

Memphis, TN (June 15, 2015) – Tennessee Shakespeare Company, in partnership with the University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance, presents its second developing musical reading on the U of M mainstage with Midsummer Night by Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn on June 27 at 7:00 pm.

Tickets for the reading are just $15, or $10 for Students and Seniors.

Midsummer Night, directed by Janet Roston, is the second of three developing musicals in TSC’s inaugural Showplace Memphis: Musical Works in Progress.

Broadway's Katrina Lenk

 Eric B. Anthony

Broadway's Katrina Lenk and Eric B. Anthony 

Sponsored by one of Broadway’s elite musical licensing companies, Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW) and President/CEO Steve Spiegel, based in New York City, Showplace Memphis has been devised as the next creative stage for three musicals en route to full productions in New York and on the regional theatre circuit across the U.S.  The first musical in Showplace Memphis last month was a very successful reading of Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical.  The final musical will be a charming and surprising new piece, The Oliver Experiment (August 15).

TRW has selected the musicals, and the Actors’ Equity casts and directors are coming from all around the country and Memphis.

The cast includes Broadway’s Katrina Lenk (Once; Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark; The Miracle Worker) as Titania and Eric B. Anthony (The Lion King; Hairspray; Mary Poppins) as Puck.

Songwriters Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda join with co-creator/director Janet Roston (Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Rock Opera Company) for this new take on William Shakespeare’s beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The musical is set within a modern-day rock festival.  It’s a rollicking collision of rock music, iambic pentameter, and hipsters – where rock stars Titania and Oberon quarrel, festival assistant Puck creates havoc, and roadie Bottom gets a chance to shine.  

Keyboardist Milburn and electric violinist Vigoda have been singing and writing songs together for over 20 years, first for their band GrooveLily, and more recently for musical theatre and film.  Theatre:  Striking Twelve, Sleeping Beauty Wakes, Beautiful Poison, Wheelhouse, Toy Story: The Musical, Long Short Story, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, its complete reworking as the rock musical Midsummer Night, and Ernest Shackleton Loves Me.  Film: many songs for Tinker Bell for Disney animated movies.  Additional music is provided by Gene Lewin.   

The Midsummer Night creators and cast will collaborate and rehearse at the U of M for ten days leading up to its reading.  Though it will be going through both script and music changes, Midsummer Night will be played and sung in its entirety and with musical accompaniment on the U of M’s mainstage.  No other design elements (scenic/costumes/lights) will be integrated.

Audiences will have an opportunity to speak with the actors and creators of Midsummer Night immediately following its reading.  Audiences also will inform the production by completing an audience survey that will help the creative team in future development phases.

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Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, Jr. to Visit Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet Project in Action at East High School Monday, March 23

March 17, 2015 – Memphis Mayor AC Wharton, Jr. announced today he will observe first-hand Tennessee Shakespeare Company teaching and playing its Romeo and Juliet Project with 100 ninth graders in four simultaneous sessions at East High School on Monday, March 23 at 9:00 am.

“On behalf of TSC and our Board of Directors, I am so proud and honored to have Mayor Wharton joining our teachers in the classroom,” said Project creator and TSC Education Director Stephanie Shine.  “It was at the Mayor’s urging we created this Project, and I am excited for him to see his challenge come to positive life.”

pic-romeo-and-juliet-castTennessee Shakespeare Company began its nationally-recognized, four-part performance and in-school residency in the Memphis area in January.  The Project, now in its fourth year, brings a cast of eight professional actor-teachers into each Language Arts classroom at a participating school.  Students are guided by the actors to live the play’s urgent tragedy of young love amidst rage, experiencing its relevant story while ensuring that participating freshmen have a first exposure to Shakespeare that is active, rich, and rewarding.

As the teenagers in the play face armed violence, students discover positive actions available to them in their own lives in the face of real conflict.  Student post-Project assessments have recorded a 20% increase in students’ compassion as a result of their inclusion in The Romeo and Juliet Project, as well as a full letter grade increase, on average, in Language Arts classes.

The Residency concludes with an intimate performance by the actor-teachers of Romeo and Juliet, which encourages student participation.

By the end of March, The Romeo and Juliet Project will have performed the play 44 times in 27 Memphis area schools, and will have taught the Residency in 342 classroom visits in 11 schools.  At least 4,360 high school Freshmen will be reached and positively affected by The Romeo and Juliet Project.  That figure represents 34% of all freshmen in the Shelby County Schools system.

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Tennessee Shakespeare Company is generously supported by:

Boyle         FedEx         logo-arts-memphis

International Paper            University of Memphis

logo-ibank

First Tenneessee Foundation

 

Tennessee Arts Commission


Season Sponsors:
Arts Memphis, Barbara B. Apperson Angel Fund, Nancy Copp, FedEx Corporation, Independent Bank, International Paper, Rose M. Johnston, Ernest and Pat Kelly, Jr., Milton T. Schaeffer, Margaret and Owen Tabor, Ann and Wellford Tabor, Tennessee Arts Commission, and The University of Memphis.

Season Partners:
Boyle Investment Company, Dixon Gallery & Gardens, and The University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company is a proud member of:
Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence       ArtsMemphis    logo-gacc          Tennesseans for the Arts     Tennessee Theatre Association     Where We Live