The Book’s the Thing: Shake­speare From Stage to Page opens at the Palace of the Gov­er­nors

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

In Act 2 of Ham­let, the en­dur­ingly com­plex ti­tle char­ac­ter de­clares, “The play’s the thing.” Us­ing rea­son bound up i n tor­tured per­sonal psy­chol­ogy, Ham­let is sure he’ll see his un­cle Claudius’ guilty re­ac­tion while he watches a play about the mur­der of a king, thus prov­ing to him­self once and for all that Claudius killed his father. The line, of­ten ut­tered out of con­text, has over the cen­turies be­come a ral­ly­ing cry for the im­por­tance of the­ater in our lives and the sin­gu­lar in­flu­ence of its au­thor, Wil­liam Shake­speare.

In a new ex­hibit at the Palace Print Shop and Bindery at the Palace of the Gov­er­nors, The Book’s the Thing: Shake­speare From Stage to Page, this legacy is turned on its head, the writ­ten word trumping the spo­ken. “Even though I fully ac­knowl­edge and ap­pre­ci­ate that Shake­speare is best on stage, with­out print­ing, chances are those plays wouldn’t have sur­vived,” said Tom Leech, cu­ra­tor of the print shop and the ex­hibit, which opens Fri­day, Feb. 5. The Book’s the Thing, held in con­junc­tion with the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art’s First Fo­lio! The Book That Gave Us Shake­speare, is lo­cated in a re­cently re­ha­bil­i­tated room off the court­yard near the print shop.

Leech told Pasatiempo that about half of Shake­speare’s work was printed dur­ing the play­wright’s life­time. “And some of it was pi­rated badly. There was prob­a­bly some­one in the au­di­ence of the play tak­ing notes that they then took to a prin­ter, so it bore lit­tle re­sem­blance to the play as Shake­speare would have writ­ten it.” His com­plete works were gath­ered to­gether for the first time in 1623, seven years af­ter his death, in what is known as Shake­speare’s First Fo­lio, copies of which are now tour­ing mu­se­ums across the United States. Of the origi 750, about 230 re­main, and each is es­sen­tially u ue.

“To call it ‘ Shake­spe ’s’ First Fo­lio is al­most a mis­nomer,” Leech s d. “He never saw it, and the way they printed bac then, they made corrections as they were go­ing, but they would still bind ev­ery­thing, so there’s a wide range of in­ter­pre­ta­tions.” Con­tem­po­rary col­lected edi­tions of Shake­speare are ac­tu­ally “kind of a gen­er­al­ized agree­ment about what Shake­speare ac­tu­ally wrote. I’m sure there’s no end to the ar­gu­men­ta­tion among Shake­speare schol­ars.”

In the mul­ti­part ex­hibit, Leech and prin­ter James Bour­land hold pub­lic print­ing demon­stra­tions of a page from the First Fo­lio on a replica of a Guten­berg wooden hand press, the same kind used in 1623. They are hand-set­ting the type for Ham­let’s “To be or not to be” so­lil­o­quy on the na­ture of be­ing. “And to the ex­tent that it’s prac­ti­cal for vis­i­tors to print on their own, we’ll have them do that,” Leech said.

Other Shake­speare-in­spired printed ma­te­rial will be on dis­play, from the ridicu­lous to the sub­lime, to show Shake­speare’s broad in­flu­ence on cul­ture. Items in­clude vin­tage prints of Shake­spearean im­agery, The Klin­gon Ham­let — a trans­la­tion of Ham­let into a lan­guage in­vented for the TV show Star Trek, by Nick Ni­cholas and An­drew Strader — and la­bels from Shake­speare Cigars. Sev­eral New Mex­ico artists have cre­ated artist books with Shake­spearean themes rang­ing from the the­atri­cal­ity of a lit stage to his char­ac­ters’ travel routes.

The fi­nal el­e­ment of the ex­hibit is a col­lec­tion of hand-mar­bled pa­per with lines from Shake­speare plays

writ­ten out cal­li­graph­i­cally. The pa­per is made by Leech, and the cal­lig­ra­phy is by Pa­tri­cia Musick, whom Leech has known for many years, since he had a pa­per­mak­ing stu­dio in a the­ater in Colorado Springs. The two used to col­lab­o­rate on such projects each year for the the­ater’s an­nual Shake­speare pro­duc­tion. The Book’s the Thing was the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to re­visit the se­ries. “It’s go­ing to be a fun ex­hibit with plenty to look at,” Leech said. “So much has been writ­ten and printed about Shake­speare. It’s mind-bog­gling that so many peo­ple have de­voted their en­tire lives to study­ing him. He’s the only writer with his own Dewey Dec­i­mal num­ber.” ◀

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