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Livestream event presents African-American take on Shakespeare

A free live-streamed event, “African-American Shakespeare: Past, Present and Future,” will be presented at 5 p.m. today by ShakespeareAMERICA, an SOU-OSF consortium.

The panel discussion, featuring four prominent African-American Shakespeareans, is produced in partnership with the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University.

On the panel are Jennie Greenberry, a former member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival acting company; Dawn Monique Williams, one-time artistic associate at OSF who directed “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in 2017; Peter Callender, an acclaimed Bay Area actor and artistic director of the African- American Shakespeare Company; and Ayanna Thompson, a celebrated scholar who has written extensively on the subject of Shakespeare and race.

Tickets are free for the 90-minute program, but registration is required online at oca.sou.edu/box-office. After registering, a link to the event will be sent via email to attendees on Feb. 1 at about 12 noon.

The panel will consider how African-American theatre artists have regarded and performed Shakespeare, what kind of unique stamp they have they put on his plays, and how audiences perceive race when a racially diverse cast performs Shakespeare.

There will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions during the event via the YouTube chat box.

Greenberry spent five years with OSF in both dramatic and musical roles, among them Ophelia in “Hamlet” and Marina in “Pericles,” a performance she reprised at the Folger Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C. and at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Williams is associate artistic director at Aurora Theatre. She was to direct “Bernhardt/Hamlet” at OSF in 2020, but it was canceled because of the pandemic.

She is a university lecturer and blogger of Shakespeare and performance topics.

Thompson is a Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University and directs the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She is the author of books and essays on Shakespeare and race and also serves on the board of Play On Shakespeare, an organization dedicated to enhancing the understanding of Shakespeare through contemporary translations and adaptations.

Callender, a Juilliard School graduate, is in his 21st season as associate artist at the California Shakespeare Theater where he has played multiple leading roles. A native of Trinidad, he has appeared on Broadway, in off-Broadway venues, in regional theaters and on international stages.

ShakespeareAMERICA was founded by David Humphrey, director of the OCA, and Paul Nicholson, executive director emeritus at OSF. Its mission is to provide an accessible forum for practitioners, scholars, teachers, students, and audiences in which to explore the world of Shakespeare through the prism of an American perspective.

OCA expects broad interest in the live-streaming panel discussion.

“No playwright has ever captured the depth and range and mystery of human experience with the acute insight and dazzling language of Shakespeare,” said David McCandless, director of the Shakespeare Studies Program at OCA.

“Scholars still debate the meaning of his plays, finding within them a bottomless well of philosophical, political and psychological insight” he said. Past programs sponsored by ShakespeareAMERICA include an interview with

Bill Rauch, former OSF artistic director; “The Woman’s Part in Shakespeare”; a panel discussion about multicultural aspects of Shakespeare’s work; and a symposium, “Much Ado About Shakespeare in Contemporary America.”

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

n this screencap from Shakespeare-America.SOU.EDU, the cast of “Comedy of Errors” performs during the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2016. (shakespeare-america.sou.edu)