My Literary Journals were full of Announcements.
My literary journals were full of announcements, as were all the major newspapers in the world. This year, 2016, was the 400 th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare.(Supposedly he died at age 52.) Because those of us who dwell in the spoken word revel in this kind of celebration, it was no wonder that Macbeth was being performed in London! But as I continued to read through my journals I realized that folks in India, Egypt, Jordan, and Chicago were also celebrating with street fairs, readings, plays, and all kinds of literary paraphernalia (you know… buttons, shirts, ball caps…the kind of things Shakespeare would want us all to wear).
It was an easy fix to bring a few celebrations to Trine University. We are the beacon of knowledge in this small town. I called my friend Tim Mooney and invited him to share his Breakneck Hamlet performance. Tim is a first class actor from Chicago who can recite Hamlet (most of it) in 59 minutes and 22 seconds. He was thrilled to come here on his way to London! We also had scholarly presentations by professors and even had a Shakesperean dinner. But was that enough? No, I said to myself, that can’t be all there is. I mean 400 years is 400 years.
The idea came to me in February as the winds were blowing outside my studio. I would read Shakespeare on the square in Angola’s downtown in April! Stunning! The idea kept churning until it was decided in my most sure-I- can-do- this moment that I could read on the square at 4:00 every day for the entire month. I would read five sonnets a day and finish on April 30th . I went to see Maria Davis, who works for our downtown development and she loved the idea, although it was imperative (imperative?) that I fill out all the forms for the police, fire department, etc. I was curious as to what that had to do with my reading sonnets on the square. She looked at me and said without even batting an eye, “Crowd control.” I nodded solemnly in agreement. I was hoping she didn’t see my eyebrows shoot up.
I advertised this event. Friends advertised this event. Friends of friends advertised this event. “Hear ye, hear ye,” I hollered out to anyone who would listen. The response was great and there were great mumblings around this town.
I set my alarm clock for 3:35 p.m. permanently so I would never miss, and pulled my dad’s Shakespeare book off the shelf. Carefully I marked off all the sonnets with a pen and made some notations. I was ready to go.
April 1 st . I nervously biked on down to the square. Who would show up? Would anyone come? Would I have to fight off the crowds? To my great happiness three folks showed up. When the clock on city hall struck 4:00, I began to read my first sonnet:
“From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease
His tender heir might bear his memory…
Too quickly the readings of the five sonnets were over. Everyone (all three) said they would bring friends on the ‘morrow. I thanked them for coming and went gleefully home.
April 2nd . The wind was blowing a gale with snow and rain and ice and everything that bumps in the night. It was only the second day of my commitment, yet I was already doubting this great idea I had in February. Then, as if King Lear himself whispered in my ear, I put on my winter cape and drove to the square. At 4:00 the snow was coming down in torrents, but I read my beloved Shakespeare sonnets 6-10. No one came. The folks at the Brokaw Movie House did peer through the doors to watch me though.
I had some nice messages when I got back home…saw you on the square, you are crazy, hope to catch it one of these days…
And, of course, the show goes on. Thirty days of Shakespeare on the square in Angola, Indiana. Right back at you New York, Chicago, Jordan, London…right back at you. I even had guest readers. Tim Mooney read while he was in town. Town folks read, our local Priest read, even my little grandson, Jonah, read for us.
On the last day I had a nice crowd, and I had to say there was a little tear in my eye as I closed the book. It had been a good run. Now folks are saying, “Hey, Lou Ann, are you going to celebrate Whitman, Longfellow, Poe….on the square?”
I guess I will have to plod back up to Maria’s office. “Crowd control?” she will ask, and I will just nod in the affirmative.
Angola resident Lou Ann Homan is a writer, teacher, storyteller and lover of small towns. Twice she has been twice awarded the Lilly Teacher Creativity Award and is currently a professor at Trine University in the Humanities and Communication Department. Her storytelling skills have twice brought her the Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowship grant, and two commissioned pieces from Indiana Landmarks. She has told stories on many Fringe Festival stages throughout the Midwest and has carried her from the green hills of Ireland to China, and from Florida to Arizona. She has been on the roster of Arts for Learning for many years and was awarded the Anna Award in 2015 for her outstanding plan for program enhancement.