Penn Libraries celebrates Shakespeare’s 450th birthday

Penn Libraries is commemorating William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday with a party and exhibit opening in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center (where we lay our scene).

On Wednesday, April 23, Penn Libraries will throw a Shakespearean birthday party at 5:30 p.m. in the Kislak Center for Special Collections on Van Pelt’s sixth floor. Birthday cake will be served and partygoers can go hence and enjoy dramatic performances of some of the Bard’s most famous work by Penn’s Underground Shakespeare Company.

The celebration marks the opening of the Libraries’ exhibit, “Shakespearian Residues,” which will display a selection of “Shakespeariana” from its collections, including a human skull that was used as a prop during productions of “Hamlet” at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre in the 1860s, an 1868 “Hamlet” poster from a Paris theater, and gloves believed to have been worn by Shakespeare himself. Penn’s Shakespeare Library, officially known as the H. H. Furness Memorial Library, is home to one of the most extensive collections of the Bard’s work.

“We wanted to honor him in a fun way that drew attention to the variety of things that we hold,” says Daniel Traister, curator of research services at the Kislak Center.

Objects inspired by Shakespeare’s work will also be showcased, such as Ian Doescher’s recent book, “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars,” which retells George Lucas’ epic “Star Wars” in the style of the Bard of Avon, and John Updike’s book, “Bottom’s Dream, which was adapted from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Traister says they chose to feature works inspired by Shakespeare as a way of acknowledging the “massive and somewhat surprising cultural reach of what has become not simply a playwright, but a figure [who has] enough cultural currency so that he can be parodied and played with, as well as venerated.”

The birthday celebration and exhibition are free and open to the public. The exhibit runs through June 9.

For more information, visit the Kislak Center website.

William Shakespeare