Middletown’s ARTFARM Theater Company has been celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the Death of Shakespeare since last summer, starting with their outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and continuing with over 20 “Shakespeare400 Passport” events throughout the State. This month the year-long celebration comes to a raucous climax with “Shakespeare Megadeath Weekend” on April 21 – 24, with a multitude of ways for theater enthusiasts, historians, students of literature, families and barflies to celebrate the Bard’s Quatercentenary.
Middletown Mayor Dan Drew has declared the week of April 18 – 24 as “Shakespeare Week in Middletown”, and ARTFARM is leading the charge locally. “Shakespeare Megadeath Weekend” events are listed below. All of the events are open to the public, and some are free:
*The weekend kicks off on Thursday, April 21 with “400 Years of the Bard in Print: From the First Folio to Text Messages”, an Open House at Special Collections & Archives at Wesleyan University’s Olin Library. The library has an excellent collection of Shakespeare’s works, from 1623 to the present. Drop in to view rare, illustrated, and unusual editions of the Bard. Note that handling of fragile items will be limited, and children are welcome but must be accompanied by an adult. The event will be held in the Davison Rare Book Room on the first floor of Olin Library from noon to 1 pm and 4 – 6 pm. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*ARTFARM’s Shakespeare Ensemble will perform a free reading of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 2 pm on Friday, April 22 in the Main Quad at Trinity College in Hartford. The performance is sponsored by Sound & Fury, the student-run Shakespeare Society at the College, as part of their “Shakespeare on the Quad” event and is open to the public. Rain location in Mather Hall. The cast features many actors familiar to Shakespeare in the Grove audiences.
*”A Toast to Shakespeare” will be offered at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty at 51 Lawn Avenue in Middletown on Friday, April 22 from 5 – 7 pm. The event will feature cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, live harp music and a short talk on ARTFARM’s Shakespeare work and future plans by Executive Director Dic Wheeler and Artistic Director Marcella Trowbridge. This is a fundraiser for ARTFARM’s Shakespeare in the Grove and the suggested minimum donation is $50 per person.
*Shakespeare’s Birth and Death Day (he was born on April 23, 1564 and died on April 23, 1616) will be marked at Middletown’s It’s Only Natural Restaurant all day on Saturday April 23. Ten percent of the day’s sales will support Shakespeare in the Grove. Eat well and support live outdoor Shakespeare in Connecticut! ION Restaurant is at 606 Main Street.
*On Sunday, April 24, 5 - 7 pm, the Megadeath Weekend will culminate with “Shakespeare at the Bar– 400 Years Dead!” at Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, 695 Main Street in Middletown. Friends of Shakespeare, actors, fans and families are invited to join the ARTFARM Ensemble and Board in celebrating the life and impact of Shakespeare. Recite a sonnet or favorite monolog, share a quote, tell a Shakespeare story – this informal gathering is meant to give Shakespeare enthusiasts a chance to gather and have some fun. The event will be held in the Garden if weather permits, and the bar will be offering two special Shakespeare-themed beers (proceeds of the sales of these will benefit ARTFARM) for the occasion. Mayor Drew will join the proceedings with a proclamation at 6 pm.
All of these events are in ARTFARM’s Shakespeare400 Passport, and passport holders will be able to get stamps as long as you bring your passport to the event. Anyone submitting their Shakespeare400 Passport to ARTFARM by May 15 with ten or more event stamps will be entered into a drawing for an impressive packet of prizes, including free tickets to Hartford Stage Company, Yale Repertory Theater, Connecticut Repertory Theater, Long Wharf Theater, ARTFARM, and Flock Theater. Winners will be announced at ARTFARM’s “Shakespeare Goes To Italy” Rooftop Gala at the Community Health Center on June 17.
ARTFARM is a Middletown-based non-profit professional theater company, founded in 2001, which cultivates high-quality theater with a commitment to simple living, environmental sustainability and social justice. ARTFARM has presented Shakespeare in the Grove every summer since 2006, tours an environmental circus called Circus for a Fragile Planet, is committed to generative, socially engaged physical theater, runs youth circus programs statewide, offers workshops and residencies throughout the Northeast, and in 2015 spent four months doing theater work in Sri Lanka.
For more information about Shakespeare Megadeath Weekend or other ARTFARM programs, contact email@example.com or call (860) 346-4390.
ARTFARM production photos by Bill Dekine and John Giammatteo. Punk Shakespeare image by Jason Leinwand.