Truly enduring works for 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death

By Anne E. O’Keefe
Rockford Area Arts Council

The celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death started here in February with the Songs of Shakespeare at Emerson House and Much Ado About Nothing at Rock Valley College Studio Theater. If you missed those performances, fear not, April is packed with opportunities to celebrate this momentous occasion.

“William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets have influenced not only theatre, but just about every other form of artistic expression that exists! This is not a celebration of his death, but a commemoration of the legacy he has provided us for the past four-hundred years,” said Rulee Stallman, chair of the Artistic Advisory Commission for Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center (MPAC,

Stallman went on to say, “As one involved in the performing arts, I could see all kinds of possibilities for an interdisciplinary performing arts program involving different artists and groups. I was inspired by Transform Rockford and thought what could be more appropriate than a Shakespearience involving community members of the Rockford area?”

On Saturday, April 9, Mendelssohn presents Shakespeare Trivia Night. Get your teams together for a fun night of Shakespeare trivia hosted by Jeopardy winner, Tim Anderson. Here’s your chance to show off your Shakespeare knowledge for prizes and to enjoy light refreshments at Emerson House, 420 N. Main Street, begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $10, $6 for students.

Then Tuesday, April 12 Lunch & Learn: Shakespeare’s Sonnets III: Love & Sex will be presented at Mendelssohn, 406 N. Main Street, at noon. Dr. William Gahan, the presenter, has been an Associate Professor of English at Rockford University, since 2009, and was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. He earned his B.A. from the University of Washington; M.A. from Loyola Marymount University; and his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Gahan has published on Shakespeare and early modern English writing and culture; Spanish painting; Latin American and U.S. poets; and delivered conference presentations on the Golden Age and Shakespearean drama. Participants are welcome to bring a lunch.

Jazz at Emerson: Shakespearean Jazz is Sunday, April 17 at 420 N. Main Street beginning at 3 p.m. Admission is $10, $6 for students. The Encore Trio with Guy Fiorenza, Al Feeney, and Tim Austin will present an afternoon of Shakespearean Jazz titled, As You Like It. Relax with light refreshments, have fun with your friends, and meet the artists after the concert!

The culminating event Shakespearience: Legacy of The Bard is Saturday, April 23 at 7 p.m. and takes place at Court Street United Methodist Church, 215 N. Court Street.

The exciting final event features; Shakespeare’s sonnets performed by the Mendelssohn Chorale, theatrical and operatic Romeo and Juliet performances from the Performing Arts Department at Rockford University and Anna Christine Woiwood, King Lear brought to life by the Rock Valley College Studio Theater, and dance based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Tango Argentino and Rockford Dance Company. The event is so momentous Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I will be making an appearance. Tickets are $25 with a very special student ticket for just $6. Visit to order or for additional information.

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