Producing artistic director Matt Wallace and four members of Kentucky Shakespeare were invited to Stratford-on-Avon in England to help celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. In fact, Kentucky Shakespeare kicked off the day-long event with a dawn performance of “the blessing of the house” scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Watch their performance on the BBC here. (It begins at around the 1:30 mark.)
Wallace called the experience “really surreal,” he said. “There we were at dawn on April 23, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, at the site of Shakespeare’s adult home where he was when he wrote many of his plays … and Kentucky Shakespeare is the first group to perform at this new site … when I heard the host say, ‘And today, millions of viewers across the world …’
Wallace, actors Abigail Bailey Maupin and Greg Maupin, education director Kyle Ware and director Amy Attaway walked in the parade and performed scenes in the Shakespeare Birthplace garden. They took in a couple of plays at The Globe. They also participated in the procession from Town Hall to the church where Shakespeare is buried for Shakespeare mass on Sunday, and Dame Helen Mirren took their photograph.
In fact, Kentucky Shakespeare got a lot of media coverage during the trip. The costumed performers were featured on NPR, in the Guardian, Getty Images and Reuters. Wallace said they did interviews with stations as far away as Poland and China.
“This historic trip was surreal and awe-inspiring. The stakes couldn’t have been higher,” he said. “Here we are, an American Shakespeare company from Kentucky, performing on the site of Shakespeare’s adult home, live on the BBC. It went off without a hitch.”
While they were in England, the group got to work with Shakespeare historians and archivists and had access to nine exclusive archives.
“One of the most poignant moments was a couple nights before the celebration when, late at night, the five of us walked the empty grounds of Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried, under a full moon,” said Wallace. “A powerful moment of reflection and clarity.”
Kentucky Shakespeare hosts the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the country. The 56th season kicks off on June 1.