Celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday on Library Lawn

William Shakespeare (image by artist Paul Harmon)
William Shakespeare (image by artist Paul Harmon)

The Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries at Vanderbilt and the Nashville Shakespeare Festival will hold the Bard’s Birthday Bash—marking the 454th birthday of William Shakespeare— Monday, April 23, on the university’s Library Lawn.

Jugglers, troubadours, sword fighting masters, scribes and Nashville Public Library puppeteers will entertain attendees during the celebration, which is free and open to the public.

Festivities begin at noon, with a variety of activities that include an open mic Shakespeareoke tent as well as dancing and music. Shakespeare himself will be on hand at an Elizabethan selfie station. Cake and (ginger) ale will be served, as well as 2B cookies.

At 2 p.m., participants will attempt to crowdsource Shakespeare with the “Biggest Balcony Scene Ever.” For the ninth year in a row—the first time at Vanderbilt—the Nashville Shakespeare Festival will direct all of the aspiring Romeos and Juliets. Copies of the edited script will be available on the NashvilleShakes.org website, and at the event.

Denice Hicks, executive director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival
Denice Hicks, executive director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival (courtesy of Jeff Frazier)

“During the reading, Romeos will take their places in front of the library, while Juliets will stand above them on the lawn (balcony),” said Denice Hicks, executive director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. “Casual dress is fine but we encourage everyone to dress up.”

“We hope the celebration will become an annual Vanderbilt tradition,” said University Librarian Valerie Hotchkiss. “With the entire first-year class as a co-sponsor, we would love a big student turnout.”

This year’s festivities honor the late Ann Cook Calhoun, Vanderbilt professor of English, emerita, and a scholar who held leadership roles in Shakespeare organizations around the world.

At 3 p.m., Hicks will perform the premiere of The Maiden Phoenix, a one-woman show written and directed by Mark Cabus, in the library’s Community Room. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Parking will be available in the Wesley Place Garage across from the library. For more information, visit Vanderbilt libraries or Nashville Shakespeare Festival. Joining them as co-sponsors are The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons at Vanderbilt, the departments of English and Theatre, and Nashville Improv; with support from Nashville Public Library and Blair School of Music.

Script for "Biggest Balcony Scene" (from Romeo and Juliet)
Script for “Biggest Balcony Scene” (from Romeo and Juliet)