Julie Taymor will become the first female American director to receive the prestigious William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the Shakespeare Theatre Company announced Tuesday.
The theater is linking the award to the citywide Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, but Taymor, in a phone conversation from New York on Monday, declined to speak about her work in the context of being a female director in a male-dominated industry.
“Being the first American, that is what makes me very proud,” Taymor said. “We have such reverence for the English productions of Shakespeare, but that’s what I’m very proud of, to be an American director.”
Many of the previous recipients of the “Will” Award have been natives of the British Isles, including Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and, last year, John Hurt and Diana Rigg. Taymor will receive the award at the annual Harman Center for the Arts Gala on Nov. 1.
Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director Michael Kahn said in a statement that Taymor was being honored for her “bold, visionary work for the stage and screen that has brought classical work to new audiences and strengthened appreciation of what makes Shakespeare’s creations timeless.”
Although Taymor’s Shakespearean work largely has been limited to three plays — “Titus Andronicus,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest” — she has explored all three through multiple stage productions and in film.
“Midsummer,” the Shakespearean play that has occupied most of Taymor’s time and imagination as of late, also was the first play she ever saw. The year was 1960, Taymor was 7 years old, and her family was on a road trip that took them through western Ontario. They stopped at the Stratford Festival to see a production of “Midsummer” directed by actor and director Douglas Campbell, who would go on to lead Minnesota’s Guthrie Theater.
“I have been loving Shakespeare ever since,” Taymor said. “I have been living with ‘Midsummer’ for such a long time.”
As a theater camper, Taymor played the lover Hermia. In 2013, she finally had a chance to direct the play at New York’s Theatre for a New Audience. She then filmed the production. (The movie screened at the Shakespeare Theatre in July.)
Taymor’s productions of “Titus” and “The Tempest” took a similar stage-to-screen path, although those films were shot on location. “ ‘Titus,’ ” she said, “is the greatest treatise on violence ever written.” Anthony Hopkins starred as the bloodthirsty Roman general in that film, and Helen Mirren took the lead in “The Tempest,” a play Taymor had directed three times.
“The more you get into it, the more you discover,” she said. “It is a gift to a director to get to do a Shakespeare play more than once.”
Although Taymor’s career has focused on illuminating the darker, more mysterious sides of Shakespeare, a pair of New England academics have taken a break from their serious scholarly work to focus on the Bard’s penchant for mirth and merriment.
“Shakespeare, Not Stirred,” a new volume of recipes for Shakespeare-inspired cocktails and savory snacks, was published earlier this month, and at 6 p.m. Friday, the Folger Shakespeare Library will host a discussion and signing with the book’s authors, Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim.
Bicks and Ephraim teach at Boston College and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, respectively. To illustrate their concoctions, they leafed through thousands of photos and illustrations from the Folger’s holdings, then worked with artist Jim Monaco to alter the images digitally. For example, in a 19th-century engraving, Ophelia appears to have drowned not from despair over Hamlet’s rejection, but rather because she lost her footing while enjoying a beverage beside the weeping brook.
That elderflower, Curacao liqueur and vodka combination is called “The Drowning Ophelia,” but most entries are not so much inspired by Shakespearean scenes as they are plays on his words. Because really, chances are Mistress Quickly wasn’t much of a mixologist. To wit, patrons at the Folger event (21 and older with ID) will be able to purchase a champagne cocktail called the “Et Tu, Brut.” (Admission is free.)
Another combination of drama and gastronomy is set for Thursday night at Catholic University, when alumnus Andy Shallal, the restaurateur who owns Busboys and Poets, will lead a talkback after the D.C. premiere of the new play “Selma ’65.”
Drama professor Marietta Hedges stars in Catherine Filloux’s one-woman show, which tells the story of Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights activist from Detroit who supported marchers in Alabama and was murdered.
Hedges and Filloux worked on the script for several years and premiered “Selma ’65” off-Broadway last year. Their efforts have been guided by Eleanor Holdridge, head of the university’s graduate directing program. Performances continue at the Hartke Theatre through Sunday.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.