5 Shakespeare Scholars on the Past, Present, and Future of Theater Amid COVID-19: In Honor of the Bard's 456th Birthday

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It’s strange to think that on the day we began contemplating a roundtable to mark William Shakespeare’s 456th birthday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo created a containment zone in the city of New Rochelle, formerly the epicenter of the state’s coronavirus outbreak. We were on the eve of the pandemic declaration and approaching the day Broadway would go dark for the first time since 9/11. It became apparent that just as the death toll would rise, so too would there be consequences for the social and cultural fabrics that bind us to one another.

Briefly, the prospect of a conversation centered on the Bard seemed, at best, like a convenient escape. But the following discussion, between five scholars who have devoted their careers situating Shakespeare alongside issues of performance, education, identity, partisanship and more, feels uniquely primed to our moment. It is an essential guide to the possible futures of our collective engagement with theater.

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First Department