The Hofstra Shakespeare Festival
Hofstra University’s Annual Shakespeare Festival began in 1950 with a production of Julius Caesar. Throughout its’ long history the Festival has presented a varied selection of the plays of William Shakespeare, lesser-known short plays from the period, musicales, and scenes from Shakespeare’s plays performed by high school groups from the greater New York area. Each year a different piece is performed on the main stage, representing one of 26 plays of the Shakespearean canon presented at the festival.
Since 1951, the second year of the Festival, plays have been performed regularly on a 5/6 life-sized replica of the Globe stage as reconstructed by John Cranford Adams, later assisted by Irwin Smith. Dr. Adams was President of Hofstra University from 1944 to 1964. The replica was built under supervision of Donald H. Swinney, designer and technical director in the Department of Drama. The Globe was erected each spring in the Calkins Gymnasium where the Festival was presented in its early years. Since 1958 the Festival has been held in the John Cranford Adams Playhouse. In most years the replica of the Globe has been used as the setting for the Shakespeare Festival.
The Globe Playhouse
When John Cranford, Hofstra’s president from 1944 to 1964, was a candidate for his doctorate at Cornell University, he chose as his dissertation subject, The Globe Playhouse-Its Design and Construction. The Globe, completed in 1599, provided the setting for a number of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.
The design of the Globe has excited the imagination of Shakespearean scholars for more than a century. It was known to have been built of timber, roofed with thatch, and contained, for stage effects, a small canon, which in 1613 accidentally set fire to the thatch, destroying the theatre.
In the preparation for the publication of his work by Harvard University Press in 1942, Dr. Adams spent 10 years in research. This involved study in England of Tudor architecture, building methods and allied crafts, plus hundreds of Elizabethan plays, contracts, playhouse documents, legal records, letters and maps.
Convinced that the subject could not be explored by the research methods of the literary scholar alone, Dr. Adams tested each clue to the enigmatic structure by creating, side by side with his book, a scale model of the Globe, as a third dimension to his findings. Dr. Adams’ model is now presented in the lobby of his name sake playhouse.
The Shakespeare Festival Through the Years
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