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Date: Mar 05, 2009
Hofstra Shakespeare Festival Turns 60
"The Tempest" is the Featured Production, March 5 to 15, 2009
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY …“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep.”
These are the renowned words spoken by the magician Prospero in The Tempest about the fleetingness of mortal life - one of thousands of famous quotations recited during the 60 years of Hofstra’s annual Shakespeare Festival.
The Tempest will be the featured production of this year’s Shakespeare Festival, scheduled for March 5 to 15, 2009, at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse. Directed by Professor James Kolb, the production will feature Hofstra Professor Peter Sander in the role of Prospero. The Festival includes a companion play - a new one-hour adaptation of Macbeth by Hofstra Adjunct Professor of English Maureen McFeely - and the Shakespeare Festival Musicale, a concert of early music titled “Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On,” directed by Professor of Music William Hettrick.
This year’s momentous anniversary of the Shakespeare Festival brings with it a wealth of nostalgia and a compelling history. The person most responsible for bringing the Bard to Hofstra was noted Shakepeare scholar John Cranford Adams, president of Hofstra from 1944 to 1964. Before the John Cranford Adams Playhouse was built in 1958, the Shakespeare Festival - and all other Hofstra plays - were performed in the Calkins Gymnasium. For many years Dr. Adams had researched the design of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and he created a model of the Globe in a ratio of one-half inch to one-foot scale. With the help of architect Irwin Smith, Dr. Adams refined and improved the model. The public debut of the model coincided with the premiere of the first Shakespeare Festival.
The first Hofstra Shakespeare Festival, featuring Julius Caesar, opened on March 22, 1950, with an audience consisting primarily of 1,000 high school students. When the show closed four performances later, more than 4,500 people had attended the Festival’s play, symposiums and music recitals. The audience size grew for many consecutive years. By 1969 10 performances of The Comedy of Errors attracted 12,000 people.
Though it is not being used for this year’s production of The Tempest, it is impossible to discuss the history of the Festival without including Hofstra’s life-scale replica of the Globe, which opened in time for the second annual Festival, based on Dr. Adams’ model. The Hofstra set was a 5/6 reproduction, the first of its kind in the Eastern United States.
Professional actors were used in many of the early Festivals, but the available student talent soon made this an option, rather than a necessity. Casts over the years have included Phil Rosenthal, the creator and executive producer of Everybody Loves Raymond; Tony-nominees Tom McGowan and Peter Friedman; film and stage actor Joe Morton; stage, film and television actresses Susan Sullivan, Margaret Colin and the late Madeline Kahn; and Tony-nominated Broadway director Susan Schulman, among many others. Even award-winning actor Brian Dennehy - who is not a Hofstra alumnus but performed in the Shakespeare Festival High School Competition as a teenager - said his brief participation in the Festival was responsible for igniting his love for acting.
Five plays hold records for being the most repeated over the 60 years of the Shakespeare Festival: Romeo and Juliet holds the record with five productions. The runners-up with four season each are Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Notable is that Dr. Adams’ model of the Globe Theatre, which was shown for many years at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is currently on display in the lower lobby of the John Cranford Adams Playhouse.
As Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, “What’s past, is prologue.” The next 60 years of Hofstra’s Shakespeare Festival should be as interesting and history-filled as the first. For more information and tickets to The Tempest and the other performances of the 60th anniversary Shakespeare Festival, call the Hofstra Box Office at (516) 463-6644 or visit hofstra.edu/drama.
Performance schedule / tickets:
The Tempest, directed by James Kolb, featuring Peter Sander as Prospero: Thursday, March 5, 8 p.m.; Friday, March 6 and 13, 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 7 and 14, 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 8 and 15, 2 p.m. Tickets: $12; $10 senior citizen (over 65) or matriculated non-Hofstra student with ID. Members of the Hofstra community receive one free ticket upon presentation of a current HofstraCard. Tickets on sale beginning February 3.
The Shakespeare Festival Musicale, “Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On,” featuring The Hofstra Collegium Musicum, directed by William E. Hettrick, and the Shakespeare Festival Companion Play, a one-hour adaptation of Macbeth by Maureen Connolly McFeely: Saturday, March 7 and 14, 2 p.m. $10, $8 for senior citizen (over 65) or matriculated non-Hofstra student with ID. Members of the Hofstra community receive one free ticket upon presentation of a current HofstraCard. Tickets on sale beginning February 3.
Special Performance of Macbeth: Thursday, March 12, 8 p.m. $6. Members of the Hofstra community receive one free ticket upon presentation of a current HofstraCard. Tickets on sale beginning February 3.
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Related Link: Hofstra Department of Drama and Dance