Celebrating Shakespeare at JMU

Coming This Spring… Students and Shakespeare
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by Megan O’Neill, Graduate Student Assistant

In honor of the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s legacy this upcoming spring, Carrier Library’s Special Collections will curate an exhibit of Shakespeare’s influence on JMU students throughout the years in March and April.
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Some of the most interesting exhibit material comes from the Stratford Players Collection.
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The Stratford Players, or Stratford Literary Society as it is more formally known, is an acting organization formed in 1914. Older than the Student Government Association, the Stratford Players are actually the oldest continuing student organization on campus. They continue to add to their excellent reputation, putting on memorable plays in Forbes every semester to the delight of the student body and community.
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This troupe has created a myriad of Shakespeare’s performances throughout the years, such as The Taming of the Shrew in 1952, King Lear in 1974, and Henry IV in 1979, pictured above.

The Stratford Players weren’t the only ones involved in Shakespeare, however. In 1916, all of the undergraduate classes put on a “Shakespeare’s Pageant” in honor of the 300th anniversary.shakespeare3

Over the course of the last century, the University has played host to guest performers and troupes. Many of the performance included works from Shakespeare, such as the Margaret Webster Shakespeare Company’s 1950 performance of Julius Caesar or the National Players’ 1965 performance of Twelfth Night.
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The Shenandoah Shakespeare Express’s The Unroyal Shakespeare Company visited in the summer of 1993 and included performances of Antony & Cleopatra, Romeo & Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
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Outside of theatrical performances, Shakespeare’s drama has immersed itself in the classroom. The first Shakespeare-centric class on campus was taught in the 1920-1921 school year, entitled English 208: Shakespeare and the Drama.
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These selections are only part of the materials being collected for the Shakespeare exhibit—there is so much more to come in spring! We hope to see you there to celebrate Shakespeare’s legacy on the page and on the stage.

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