The first ever festival of Shakespeare in Yosemite National Park, California, has been deemed a success.
The event, a partnership between Warwick and the University of California-Merced, saw over 600 Park visitors enjoy four free performances of a new play, co-written and co-produced by Dr Paul Prescott (English and Comparative Literary Studies) and Dr Katherine Steele Brokaw (UC-Merced).
The performances took place over the weekend of 21-23 April in two amphitheatres nestled within the incomparable landscape of Yosemite Valley and celebrated three ecological and artistic landmarks: the birthday and death of William Shakespeare on 23 April, the birthday of pioneering environmentalist John Muir on 21 April, and World Earth Day on 22 April.
“Shakespeare in Yosemite” celebrated two writers who were acutely sensitive to the natural world. It collaged excerpts from Shakespeare and Muir, and explored themes relating to climate change, the rights of animals, and the commodification of the environment.
Dr Paul Prescott said:
National Parks have been described as ‘America’s Best Idea’. Free Shakespeare in the Park might just be America’s Second Best Idea. The performances, and the enthusiasm with which they were greeted, far exceeded our expectations. There is a hunger for hearing great words spoken aloud in great landscapes. This is an exciting collaboration with UC-Merced, and, with the National Park Service’s invaluable support, we fully expect this to become an annual event."
This comes at a time when Warwick is in the process of creating a campus in Placer County, California.
Professor Seán Hand, Dean of the University of Warwick’s new graduate school in Roseville added:
It’s great to hear that this new initiative has been so well received. We look forward to progressing similar partnership opportunities in the future, as we further develop our presence in California.”
“Shakespeare in Yosemite” featured Lee Stetson, who has been playing John Muir for over thirty years, and a cast of student and professional actors. Ranger Shelton Johnson provided a moving and eloquent epilogue to the show.
Photo credits: Shawn Overton at Blue Road Photography