Celebrate Shakespeare 400 Chicago Day

April 23, 2016 has been proclaimed by Mayor Emanuel as Shakespeare 400 Chicago Day. This day celebrates both the birth and death anniversaries of the playwright, and encourages all Chicagoans to enjoy his lasting influence.

Happily, Mother Nature seems to be celebrating too. With warmer weather and daffodils in bloom, has Chicago's typical winter of discontent finally made way for spring? As the temperatures, hopefully, continue to rise, theater companies prepare to reprise a long-held tradition of performing Shakespeare's works outdoors. All the world's a stage, after all.

Some plays lend themselves better to al fresco performances than others. In As You Like It, most of the action is set in the enchanted Forest of Arden, making it an ideal selection. In 1893, at the World's Columbian Exposition, the Sylvan Dell was transformed into a theater for an audience of 2,000. The play's leading roles of Orlando and Rosalind were portrayed by Otis Skinner and Rose Coghlan, both well-known actors having played opposite such greats as Modejska and Sothern.

New York politician Chauncey Depew attended the production. He gave his own speech following Rosalind's famous epilogue. He was quoted in the next day's Tribune: "Shakespeare," he said, "was nothing when compared to Chicago. If that Bard of Avon could look down on the scene in the dell, he would smile louder and longer than he ever did when on earth."

Given Mayor Emanuel's proclamation, Mr. Shakespeare, I believe the feeling is mutual.

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