Professors celebrate Shakespeare's 450th birthday

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In the comedy “Much Ado About Nothing,” William Shakespeare writes:  “When the age is in, the wit is out.” Though he may be turning 450 this year, the works of this brilliant playwright have hardly lost any of their wit with old age.

The Folger Shakepeare Library in Washington estimates that, throughout his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote approximately 39 plays, a majority of which many students are familiar with today. Some of his more famous plays include “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

In honor of this great writer’s 450th birthday, the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry is throwing a birthday bash in the lower level of the UA Bookstore on Saturday. Beginning at 11 a.m., the celebration will include a mini-concert featuring Paula Fan and Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams, along with commentary provided by Peter Medine, a retired professor from the department of English.

“The aim [of the event] is to reflect on why it is that Shakespeare continues to speak to us across centuries and across cultures,” Medine said regarding the purpose of the birthday bash. “Quite simply, he is an author who never runs out.”

Medine has been a fan of Shakespeare since he was a young boy and has now taught about the bard’s works for decades. He said he was intrigued by the conspiracy, murder and corruption displayed in the tragedy of “Hamlet.” After realizing this at the age of 12, Medine said he became enthralled with the writing of Shakespeare, and was interested in discovering the endless amount of interpretations plays such as “Hamlet” can offer. 

Along with commentary from Medine, Fan and Williams will be performing selections from Shakespeare in contemporary musical settings.

“I have always been fascinated by Shakespeare’s language,” said Fan, a retired professor of the School of Music. “The richness, the turns of phrase and what I perceive as his use of sound, that, to me, translates as music.”

Fan is a renowned solo and concert pianist and also plays with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. She has been a colleague of Medine’s for over 40 years, and in the past, they have worked together on multiple seminars, including one about German art songs.

Also joining Fan and Williams — who is flying in for the occasion — are two students from the UA: music major Bryce Tomlin and performance major Michelle Perrier. Fan said they will stage a scene of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Although Shakespeare died almost 400 years ago, his influence is still seen throughout the modern world. Fan said his plays present stories and situations that have been seen throughout history.

“Shakespeare captures what it is to be human and cloaks it in magnificent language,” Fan said.

Shakespeare fans can join the birthday bash on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the UA Bookstore to help celebrate and remember the life and influence of this literary giant.

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