Broad­cast­ing the Bard

The In­ter­na­tional Shake­speare Cen­ter

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

Santa Fe loves Shake­speare. His plays — both live and tele­cast from the Na­tional Theatre in Lon­don — are reg­u­larly well-at­tended at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, as are smaller pro­duc­tions by lo­cal the­ater groups. Back in the 1990s, Shake­speare in Santa Fe at­tracted au­di­ences by the thou­sands to Amelia White Park and then St. John’s Col­lege, though fi­nan­cial is­sues even­tu­ally forced that or­ga­ni­za­tion to go dark. In re­cent years, the Bard has graced our sum­mers again with out­door pro­duc­tions by the Santa Fe Shake­speare So­ci­ety, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that also hosts a monthly Shake­speare read­ing group, which is just one of sev­eral in Santa Fe. Un­til about 100 years ago, Shake­speare read­ing groups were a pop­u­lar ac­tiv­ity for peo­ple from all walks of life. This was be­fore his po­etic lan­guage be­gan to be con­sid­ered too dif­fi­cult for com­mon folk to grasp on the page — and Shake­speare be­came the in­tel­lec­tual prov­ince of academics and ac­tors.

A new group in town, the In­ter­na­tional Shake­speare Cen­ter, aims to bring dear old Wil­liam back to the masses through a mul­ti­pronged ap­proach of education, close-read­ing, per­for­mance, and the­ater train­ing. The ISC hosts two pub­lic read­ing groups ev­ery Sun­day at Santa Fe Univer­sity of Art and De­sign that draws an av­er­age of 50 peo­ple — a mix of doc­tors, lawyers, teach­ers, home­mak­ers, and home­less men, among oth­ers (vis­­ers). The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s lofty plans in­clude start­ing an an­nual Shake­speare fes­ti­val for middle and high school stu­dents from pub­lic schools through­out Santa Fe County. The goal of the ISC is to make Santa Fe an in­ter­na­tional desti­na­tion for the gen­eral rev­er­ence of all things Shake­speare. Pasatiempo sat down with sev­eral mem­bers of the board to dis­cuss the ISC’s mis­sion and iden­tity. The first ques­tion: Where, ex­actly, is this cen­ter lo­cated?

“Santa Fe is the cen­ter,” said Kristin Bun­de­sen, co­founder and vice pres­i­dent of the ISC. She ex­plained that though the or­ga­ni­za­tion does have an of­fice and would one day love to have its own build­ing for a the­ater, li­brary, and read­ing room, the ISC’s ac­tiv­i­ties take place all over town — in lecture halls, the­aters, pri­vate homes, and schools — as well as on­line. “I don’t mean to be glib, but in a world that’s vir­tual, where it’s easy to talk to some­one in Venice or Lon­don or Cal­i­for­nia or Agua Fría, and so many of the early mod­ern re­search ma­te­ri­als are ac­ces­si­ble on­line, why would we need to im­me­di­ately have a brick- and­mor­tar pres­ence?”

Caryl Farkas, the ISC pres­i­dent, clar­i­fied that the po­ten­tially provoca­tive “in­ter­na­tional” com­po­nent of the name refers to its col­lab­o­ra­tions with the Lon­don Academy of Mu­sic and Dra­matic Art. Fac­ulty from the school are pre­sent­ing work­shops in Santa Fe, and the Duc­dame En­sem­ble, a group of LAMDA-trained per­form­ers who live out­side of Santa Fe, serves as the ISC reper­tory com­pany. The ISC ad­vi­sory board has in­ter­na­tional mem­bers in­clud­ing Rod­ney Cot­tier, head of the drama school at LAMDA, and Mark Ry­lance, for­mer artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Globe Theatre in Lon­don. But the hard work of es­tab­lish­ing Santa Fe as an in­ter­na­tional cen­ter for Shake­speare seems to be largely in the hands of Farkas, Bun­de­sen, and the ISC co-founder Robin Wil­liams, a Shake­speare scholar and au­thor of nu­mer­ous books about com­put­ers and de­sign.

As a new or­ga­ni­za­tion, Wil­liams said, “We’re not fly­ing out of the gate say­ing we’re amaz­ing. But we have track records. Each one of us has done a lot. We fully un­der­stand that the next few years are our prov­ing ground to show we can do the things we want to do and grow like we want to.”

Farkas moved to Santa Fe from Wis­con­sin in 2014 with her hus­band Joe, ISC’s busi­ness man­ager. Their daugh­ter, Anna, a se­nior at St. John’s Col­lege, is a mem­ber of the ISC board, as well as as­so­ciate artis­tic di­rec­tor, and she is founder of the Up­start Crows of Santa Fe, a youth Shake­speare per­for­mance group that has grown its mem­ber­ship from three to 25 since its found­ing less than two years ago. Farkas worked with a youth Shake­speare group and other the­aters in Madi­son as a di­rec­tor of per­for­mances and in non­profit man­age­ment. Bun­de­sen brings non­profit and ed­u­ca­tional man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence to the ta­ble as the for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Con­necti­cut Con­ser­va­tory of the Per­form­ing Arts, a school for stu­dents in the vis­ual and per­form­ing arts. She has a doc­tor­ate from the Univer­sity of Not­ting­ham and has writ­ten and lec­tured ex­ten­sively on Shake­speare.

The ISC is es­pe­cially busy this Fe­bru­ary, host­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in many of the events sur­round­ing First Fo­lio! The Book that Gave Us Shake­speare at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art, a trav­el­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of the Fol­ger Shake­speare Li­brary in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Wil­liams and Bun­de­sen were in­volved in gen­er­at­ing com­mu­nity sup­port for the enor­mous un­der­tak­ing, which was a group ef­fort by nu­mer­ous staff in the mu­seum sys­tem, in­clud­ing Tom Leech, cu­ra­tor of the Palace Print Shop and Bindery; Pa­tri­cia Hewitt, se­nior cat­a­loguer at the Fray Angélico Chávez His­tory Li­brary; Mary Ker­shaw, di­rec­tor of the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art; Car­men Ven­delin, cu­ra­tor of art at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art; and Re­becca Au­bin, head of education and vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence at the art mu­seum. Af­ter Fe­bru­ary, the ISC plans to fundraise more earnestly for fu­ture en­deav­ors. The board mem­bers pooled their per­sonal re­sources to start the or­ga­ni­za­tion and held a suc­cess­ful fundraiser in Nov. 2015. Now pri­vate do­na­tions are start­ing to roll in and grant-writ­ing is un­der­way. They are also count­ing on ticket sales for work­shops and per­for­mances to gen­er­ate some rev­enue. They stressed that they are not a the­ater com­pany or a fes­ti­val, but a year-round pres­ence, point­ing out that thirst for knowl­edge about Shake­speare out­side of the­atri­cal per­for­mance in Santa Fe is con­sid­er­able. Lec­tures about Shake­speare for the Renesan In­sti­tute for Life­long Learn­ing al­ways draw a crowd, and the au­di­ence for Bun­de­sen’s re­cent lecture at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art on the im­por­tance of the First Fo­lio at­tracted 200 peo­ple.

“We are an­tic­i­pat­ing the syn­ergy that will sup­port world-class per­for­mance by sup­port­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in re­search, per­for­mance, train­ing, education, and adults read­ing out loud and in com­mu­nity,” Bun­de­sen said. “Read­ing Shake­speare out loud to­gether hits some but­tons that are re­ally im­por­tant. One is that if you feel you’ve been less than lit­er­ate, that quickly dis­solves. And it in­creases civic en­gage­ment be­cause sud­denly you’re de­bat­ing, in a group, about what am­bi­tion is, what power is. Is vi­o­lence a so­lu­tion to any­thing? Is pas­sion worth sac­ri­fic­ing some­thing im­por­tant for? Th­ese are the ideas that are in the Shake­spearean canon, and when you start to re­ally think them through, you bring that knowl­edge into your ev­ery­day life.”

Many peo­ple who reg­u­larly at­tend t he I SC read­ing group came in with very lit­tle knowl­edge of Shake­speare and have turned into ex­cel­lent read­ers. “Shake­speare isn’t rocket sci­ence,” Wil­liams said, and then added, “And so what if there’s a hur­dle to un­der­stand­ing it? There’s a hur­dle to get­ting opera. There’s a hur­dle to learn­ing to ride a bike. We all spend a lot of time learn­ing to read in the first place. It’s hard to have a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship. Things are not al­ways easy in life, but the things that give us a lit­tle trou­ble turn out to be re­ally worth it. So Shake­speare takes a bit of trou­ble — so what?”

A new group in town, the In­ter­na­tional Shake­speare Cen­ter, aims to bring dear old Wil­liam back to the masses through a mul­ti­pronged ap­proach of education, close-read­ing, per­for­mance,

and the­ater train­ing.

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