How to have a Shakespeare stay-cation

How to have a Shakespeare stay-cation,
alternatively entitled:
If you think I’m not nerdy enough, just wait

I decided to take some much needed time off this week and give myself an extra long weekend. I couldn’t really decide how I wanted to use that time, though, until I had the idea to see how much Shakespeare-related stuff I could pack into my weekend. So for today’s post, I’m going to share some of what I did, presented as a how-to for your very own Shakespeare stay-cation. Because you know you want to.

 

A fun display at the Shakespeare Theatre Company that made me smile.

1. Watch a Shakespeare play on stage. This is where I started my weekend. I’m lucky to live in an area where there were actually a few really top-notch productions to choose from. I went with Hamlet at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, starring Michael Urie. I’m quite picky when it comes to Shakespeare productions, especially the histories and tragedies, because I’ve found that sub-standard comedic productions can still be enjoyable, but with tragedies and histories, they have to be very high quality or they can just be agony to sit through. Fortunately, I did like this production of Hamlet. It was placed in a modern setting, which I don’t usually enjoy as much, but it worked so well.

2. Watch a Shakespeare play on screen. I have quite a collection of Shakespeare movies, and I decided to go with Laurence Olivier’s Henry V. I find this production to be fascinating. I don’t typically like old films, but I love this one. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

3. Watch something related to a Shakespeare play on screen. There are so many great options for this. Operas, ballets, retellings like 10 Things I Hate About You. Acting Shakespeare with Ian McKellan is a personal favorite. The one I went with was Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a play/film that I really, really love.

The entrance from the courtyard of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum.

4. Visit an art museum and look for anything vaguely Shakespeare-related. I went to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and

This painting is from the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, and I’m totally intrigued with the gold in this painting. And the snake-like collar.

American Art Museum and scoured it for anything I could sort of relate to Shakespeare, which was quite fun. I actually found several things that related well, which I hadn’t really expected, like this early portrait of Elizabeth I, on the right. And this oil painting of Hermia and Helena (from A  Midsummer Night’s Dream) that I found absolutely fascinating, uncreatively entitled “Hermia and Helena” by Washington Allston (on the left). Other things took a bit more creativity to relate to Shakespeare, like these casts of Abraham Lincoln (below). What does Lincoln have to do with Shakespeare, you ask? Well, he famously loved Shakespeare. So that’s that. Booja. I can relate anything to Shakespeare.

 

5. Research Elizabeth/early Jacobean clothing. For funsies. Because I’m interested in historical costuming (even though I’ve barely sewn anything in my life), and because why not? Historical clothing is really cool. I think I probably prefer early Jacobean over Elizabethan fashions. Mostly I just can’t get over the bum roll thing. Jacobean clothing seems more sensible.

6. Research Elizabethan food so you can have an Elizabethan feast. What I gleaned was lots of sugar and lots of meat. Maybe?

7. Give up and have pizza instead. Because nothing is better than pizza,

anyway.

8. Read Shakespeare. I decided on his long poem Venus and Adonis, since I hadn’t read it yet.

9. Read a Shakespeare-related book. So many to choose from, but I decided to start The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson, which is a retelling of Winter’s Tale and is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, which I have been ridiculously excited about but hadn’t given a try yet. I’m not very far into this book yet, but I’ll probably write about it once I’m done.

10. Listen to a Shakespearean opera or watch a Shakespearean ballet. If you’re feeling extra cultured or high-brow, you can watch an opera or ballet based on one of the Bard’s plays. There are a lot to choose from. In ballet, you have Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, and lots of others. In opera, there are even more. Otello, Falstaff, Macbeth, Romeo et Juliette, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Beatrice et Benedict, The Tempest. Not to mention West Side Story, although that’s not exactly opera. I listened to some Falstaff over the weekend, though I haven’t made it through the whole thing yet. I’ll admit I don’t entirely understand opera as an art form, so I only listened to part of it, but hey. Everything can’t be for everyone, right?

11. Listen to famous actors with amazing voices reading some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. For instance, David Tennant reading Sonnet 18. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Why, yes. Yes, David. You shall.

 

More than half the fun of the weekend was taking things that I felt like doing anyway (like going to the art museum or listening to music) and seeing how much I could relate it to the Bard – and trying to be a little creative about it. There were other ideas I had, like drawing something Shakespeare-inspired, or you know, actually making an Elizabethan-inspired meal. Perhaps I can save those for another Shakespeare stay-cation in the future. But for now, I’m off to finish up my weekend with more Shakespeare. Because you can never have too much Bard in your life.

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