You know you're immortal for sure when they celebrate your 416th birthday with a flea market.
William Shakespeare was born yesterday. He was a Taurus. (So were Marx, Freud, Hitler, Hearst, Barbara Streisand and Ulysses S. Grant.) Good old Taurus.
No, really, it was a lovely party at the Folger. They sold costumes for $3 to $250 and Fiberglas shielrs for $75. They sold T-shirts, old playbills, stained glass and baubles.
But that was just the beginning.
There was an afternoon tea party by Twigs and Lady Henderson, wife of the British ambassador. There was a fashion show, a wine and cheese party where you could eat and drink all you could hold for $15 (with the famous bartender Baseball Bill Holdforth, dressed as Falstaff, holding forth at the beer keg) and a mayor's proclamation.
Actor Brian Corrigan roamed the scene looking just exactly (so they told me) like Shakespeare himself, and volunteers in Renaissance clothes were everywhere. Later the group heard some harp music and watched a takeoff on "Richard II."
But the thing you really wanted to be there for was the kids. They had a festival of excerpts from plays by the Old Boy, and they came from six schools, as far away as Vienna, Va., fourth- to sixth-graders.
We missed the Murch school version of "Macbeth" with six Witches (everyone always wants to be a Witch) but did catch the Haycock school's opening scenes from the play. We can report that King Duncan's voice is changing and that Lady Macbeth looked smashing in a black gown with pearls, striking sparks in her scene with Macbeth, who wore horn-rimmed glasses like a power-mad executive.
Carderock Springs school presented a brisk "Romeo and Juliet" in a shade over 21 minutes, cutting directly from the banishment to the tomb scene. The acting was vehement.
That infallibly funny play-within-a-play from "Midsummer Night's Dream" was done with verve and pratfalls by Grace Brethern Christian day school, ending with a silent, ghostly dance of fairies.
Between plays children wandered about in their capes and boots (plastic, with the fleece-lined tops turned down) and swords and crowns and charcoal mustaches. They made a lot of noise and skittered around like water bugs when they got the chance.
Parents drifted among them with anxious faces and shopping bags full of cloth.
The "Midsummer Night's Dream," people all wore yellow T-shirts with their names on the back: Bottom, Quince, Indian Boy and so on.
Someone called for a show of hands: How many had never seen a Shakespeare play before? No one.
Child actors don't believe in wasting time with pauses in their dialogue, so the whole program went along very quickly. The morning show ran nearly an hour ahead of schedule.
In fact it all happened so fast that some parents missed seeing their kids in action. One of the stars of "Taming of the Shrew" was so upset that they repeated the excerpt later.
Nobody missed a single line all day.
Shakespeare would have been so touched.