If you’re one of those people who think William Shakespeare is overrated, thou doth protest too much.
“Shakespeare’s stories have this universal humanness of what we all go through. And we haven’t changed that much in terms of what we experience emotionally,” said Beth Kattelman, curator of “Year of Shakespeare: The Exhibit,” a recently unveiled exhibition at Ohio State’s Thompson Library.
The display of costume designs, script notations and set sketches is part of the OSU Arts Initiative’s Year of Shakespeare, which marks the third anniversary of the prestigious partnership between the university and the Royal Shakespeare Company. The celebration includes theater performances, lectures and a film series spread throughout the 2011-12 school year, all in the name of celebrating the Bard of Avon.
Suicidal star-crossed lovers and murderous, power-hungry best friends aside, Shakespeare was the ultimate realist, and his ability to make a boom-worthy turn of phrase made him a real 17th-century badass. So how does a curator focus an exhibition on a dude whose influence has touched every century (and middle school theater production) since?
“We had to narrow down our choices, and we decided to focus on ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” Kattelman said. “That made it easier to find things to compare and contrast.”
The items on display mostly focus on the performance of those tragedies.
“We want to show Shakespeare as a theater artist. Some people just read it, but we have to remember that that was not what it was for,” Kattelman said. “These things are meant to be produced as plays. This reinforces that idea.”
Among the costume and set sketches are some from the mid-1900s by respected Shakespearean designer Daphne Dare. There are more recent takes on the costumes as well, such as the “design bible” from OSU alumna Toni-Leslie James for a “Macbeth” production that starred Alec Baldwin and Angela Bassett.
There also are promotional photos from a Kabuki-style 1978 production of “Macbeth” and an abstract lithograph from Prague promoting “Romeo & Juliet.”
The exhibition pulls from OSU’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. Bibliophiles will dig the university’s prized, rare edition of Second Folio, a 1632 compilation of Shakespeare’s published works.
“This exhibit gives people a chance to see some of the actual artifacts and artifacts of people who were producing these plays throughout the centuries,” Kattelman said. “It’s interesting to see how they’ve been appreciated, what ideas have surrounded them.”
How will Shakespeare’s legacy transform in the 21st century? That is the question.
Photos by Jodi Miller