30 Days of Shakespeare: One Reading of the Bard Per Day, by The New York Public Library, on the 400th Anniversary of His Death

April 23 is the 400th anniver­sary of Shakespeare’s death, an event so far in the past that it can be cel­e­brat­ed as a sec­ond birth­day of sorts.

The New York Pub­lic Library’s con­tri­bu­tion to the fes­tiv­i­ties has an endear­ing­ly home­made qual­i­ty.

This august insti­tu­tion boasts over 500 audio record­ings of the Bard’s work, not to men­tion 40 years’ worth of the New York Shake­speare Fes­ti­val’s records. But rather than draw­ing on the col­lec­tion to high­light the work of such supreme inter­preters as John Giel­gud, John Bar­ry­more, or Edwin Booth, the library has invit­ed thir­ty of its staffers to recite their favorite Shake­speare­an speech, mono­logue, or son­net.

Sean Fer­gu­son, of Chinatown’s Chatham Square branch, tack­les the open­ing of Richard III from a dig­ni­fied remove.

Grand Central’s man­ag­ing librar­i­an, Gen­oveve Stow­ell, goes for it with a lusty ren­di­tion of King Lear’s third act rage against the storm.

Liz Den­linger, who helms the main branch’s Carl H. Pforzheimer Col­lec­tion of Shel­ley and His Cir­cle went with Shakespeare’s tem­po­ral­ly-obsessed 12th sonnet.

Make no mis­take these are librar­i­ans, not trained actors, but their ama­teur­ish­ness is part of the fun.

The library plans to release one record­ing dai­ly through­out the month of April, adding to the playlist until the tracks num­ber thir­ty.

We are hop­ing that the pro­jec­t’s archi­tects will define “staff” to include sup­port­ing depart­ments. We would love to hear a mem­ber of the secu­ri­ty or main­te­nance team take a stab—pardon the pun—at Oth­el­lo or Juli­et.

For more Shake­speare read­ings, see our post: A 68 Hour Playlist of Shakespeare’s Plays Being Per­formed by Great Actors: Giel­gud, McK­ellen & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Late, Great Alan Rick­man Reads Shake­speare, Proust & Thomas Hardy

Watch Very First Film Adap­ta­tions of Shakespeare’s Plays: King John, The Tem­pest, Richard III & More (1899–1936)

Read All of Shakespeare’s Plays Free Online, Cour­tesy of the Fol­ger Shake­speare Library

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her 15-year-old son will be play­ing Puck lat­er this month in the world pre­miere of Mark York’s musi­cal stag­ing of A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream. Mean­while, his moth­er dreams of being cast as the Nurse. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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