Just like you, William Shakespeare lived through a deadly pandemic, but alas, the England of yore lacked Zoom, and when the bubonic plague shut down the Globe and other London theaters, that was that.
Luckily for us, Shakespeare used his break from acting to write more plays.
Today, while playwrights and poets with the luxury of not working can churn out scripts and verse as the Bard did, The Gingerbread Players of St. Luke’s Church in Forest Hills are making sure everyone also gets a chance to perform, however briefly.
It’s “Shakespeare-aoke! The Ultimate Shakesperience!” and it’s your chance to try your hand reading from one of his plays or poems before an audience. But fear not if you’re susceptible to stage fright; the crowd you’ll be performing for will only see you on electronic devices.
The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, June 13. Participants must sign up at gingerbreadplayers.org or via an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Time slots are limited, and registration is first-come, first-served, but the organizers were optimistic there would still be space for new people as the workweek wraps up. There may be time for “walk-ins,” at the time of the event, but that’s not assured.
Participants are asked to submit three possible readings, with The Gingerbread Players letting them know in advance which they can perform to avoid repetition.
But that doesn’t mean people can’t ask to read some of the Bard’s most famous passages, whether it’s Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” monologue, Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech or Romeo’s “But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?” paean to Juliet. In fact, two of those three have never been done at a prior “Shakespeare-aoke!,” according to Louise Guinther of The Gingerbread Players.
And readers are not limited to his plays.
“Sonnets are very welcome,” Guinther said via email. “If the Bard wrote it, it counts.”
Costumes are encouraged, too.
Asked what insight Shakespeare himself might offer people today who like him are living through a time of pestilence, Guinther offered a sonnet transmitted to The Gingerbread Players by the spirit of the Bard himself.
Dear King’s Men (and Lord Chamberlain’s as well),
The theater world, you know, has felt the pain,
The terror, the uncertainty, the hell,
Brought by the dread coronavirus bane,
For once, alas, the show must not go on:
Without the groundlings, what would be the point?
By fiat dire, the audience is gone.
Indeed, the entire Globe is out of joint.
But if you’re thinking things could not be worse,
Beloved Shakespeareans, pluck up your heart;
For here’s a chance to play my deathless verse
In safety, from a good six feet apart.
Sign up for Shakespeare-aoke, if you please —
A great distraction from CO-VID disease.
Miss it and the fault is not in your stars.