Most people interested in William Shakespeare enjoy his work for two or three hours at a time—a movie adaptation here, a theatrical production there. But what if you could turn your next encounter with Shakespeare into an immersive weekend experience?
That’s the idea behind the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Shakespearience Weekend, scheduled for September 10-14. It’s an immersion in Shakespeare’s plays and ideas, featuring performances, a backstage tour, a film screening, and seminars with UW-Madison experts.
It’s also a chance to sample the attractions in a one-of-a-kind American town. Shakespearience Weekend takes place in Spring Green, Wisconsin, an enchanted setting worthy of the Bard’s Forest of Arden. Participants will enjoy the celebrated classical theater troupe American Players Theatre, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece Taliesin, and restaurants that take part in a thriving local food movement.
“The event is about more than just Shakespeare,” says Sarah Marty, arts area program director at UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. “It highlights the distinctive culture of Spring Green, encompassing theater, architecture, food, and natural beauty. It’s an intimate experience that will lend itself to many conversations.”
Collaboration and conversation
The Wall Street Journal hailed American Players Theatre as “the finest classical repertory company in the U.S.” The facility is
set amid 110 acres of hilly woods and meadows, with both an indoor and an outdoor stage. Participants will attend
performances of Othello and The Merry Wives of Windsor, along with discussing the plays in thought-provoking seminars.
These seminars are geared to people with varying levels of expertise, from Shakespeare novices to veterans. The four UW-Madison instructors bring a wide range of experience, including a theater producer (Marty), an English professor (Joshua Calhoun), a digital humanities innovator (Jesse Stommel), and a scholar at the Folger Shakespeare Library (R L Widmann).
“The instructors will emphasize collaboration and conversation with participants,” says Marty. “Our discussions won’t be limited to the seminars, but will continue during hikes, mealtimes, and strolls along the Wisconsin River.”
Camaraderie and community
Spring Green, surrounded by picturesque farmland in southern Wisconsin, was recently picked by Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s 20 Best Small Towns. Part of its appeal is a food culture that makes use of locally grown products. Participants in Shakespearience Weekend will eat at pioneering restaurants in the farm-to-table movement.
Frank Lloyd Wright, often called America’s greatest architect, made his home in Spring Green, drawing inspiration from the distinctive topography of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. Shakespearience Weekend features a tour of his 600-acre estate, which is packed with original furnishings, art, and architectural models.
“September is a beautiful time to be in Spring Green, when the leaves are starting to turn,” says Marty. “Shakespearience Weekend offers a mixture of group activities and time for reflection, giving people a chance to recharge their batteries. It will be a unique way to learn, in the context of camaraderie and community.”