‘Shake’ it up: Celebrate the Bard’s birthday with poetry

All the block’s a stage: A Kings County theater troupe will take over Stratford Road on April 28 to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday.
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Happy birthday, Bill!

A Kings County theater troupe will transform Ditmas Park’s Stratford Road into a free, public celebration of the 455th birthday of William Shakespeare. “Shakespeare on Stratford (Road)” will take place on the afternoon of April 28 — although scholars agree the playwright was most likely born in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23, 1564.

The Bard’s birthday bash will feature live performances on front porches donated for the day by residents of the block between Cortelyou Road and Slocum Place for use as Shakespearean stages, in an event that promises to be a delightfully communal art party, according to its director.

“I just wanted to celebrate the community, celebrate spring, and get people listening to love poetry, and love songs, and dance,” said Claire Beckman, director and co-founder of Brave New World Repertory Theatre, which takes its name from a line in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

The event will kick off with 18 costumed thespians belting out some of Shakespeare’s lesser-known sonnets from their street-side venues, each performing a different 14-line love poem on a loop. The repeated recitations will give audience members a chance to roam around and soak up the romance, according to Beckman.

“They can listen at a rapid pace, or they can stop and listen to each sonnet completely,” she said.

After the sonnet spectacular, Beckman’s audience will move into the center of the block for a performance of some spring-themed madrigals from the 16th century, along with a demonstration of courtly jigs typical of Shakespeare’s time, which will subtly transform into an Afro-Haitian dance that should feel more familiar to contemporary audiences.

Beckman’s Brave New World troupe first garnered recognition following its performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which used porches and sidewalks along Westminster Road as a venue in 2005, and the company has since built a reputation for so-called “site specific” performances utilizing public places as stages.

Celebrate the Bard’s birthday at “Shakespeare on Stratford (Road)” on Stratford Road between Courtelyou Road and Slocum Place in Ditmas Park. April 28; 2–4 p.m. Free.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Posted 12:00 am, April 23, 2019
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