Shake­speare takes on social media with Delaware Shakespeare’s Son­net Project’

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Actor Newton Buchanan prepares to record a sonnet for DelShakes's 'Sonnet Project.' (Photo courtesy of Delaware Shakespeare.)
Actor Newton Buchanan prepares to record a sonnet for DelShakes's 'Sonnet Project.' (Photo courtesy of Delaware Shakespeare.)

Earlier this year, when the coronavirus pandemic first disrupted in-person gatherings, Delaware Shakespeare jumped into the virtual space, uploading a sonnet reading each weekday to Facebook and Instagram. Before sharing "Sonnet 1" on March 19, producing artistic director David Stradley said he hoped not to need all 154. On July 3, the group passed the halfway point.

Through it all

While anyone can view a sonnet, a $30 ticket to the Sonnet Project covers an actor’s time. Additionally, recent funding from the National Endowment for the Arts allows four associate artists to join the organization and brainstorm future projects for the rest of the year.

“We can only survive and thrive if individual artists in our community can survive and thrive,” Stradley said.

The mix of free and paid events keeps Delaware Shakespeare connected with the community and their artists. Other virtual events that have provided deeper engagement include a ticketed salon on Coriolanus and timely discussion on Othello, benefitting the Delaware Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow.

The view from sonnets

The recently announced {Mostly} Virtual Festival, runnung July 17 through August 2, reimagines favorite aspects of the summer performance at Rockwood Park for a socially distanced world. (The picnic contest is virtual and T-shirts will be mailed, while the Tempest-themed monologues take place on Zoom.)

DelShakes producing artistic director David Stradley prepares to host a virtual salon on Coriolanus. (Photo courtesy of Delaware Shakespeare.)
DelShakes producing artistic director David Stradley prepares to host a virtual salon on Coriolanus. (Photo courtesy of Delaware Shakespeare.)

Performing from home is like an acting class in itself, said actor Bi Jean Ngo, who also directed 2018’s Much Ado About Nothing. In addition to navigating self-lighting and recording, she is gaining a new appreciation for the sonnets.

“Each sonnet means something different to me based on what I'm going through during that day, and also based on the video of the sonnet performed by the person before me,” Ngo said, recalling how the reading of "Sonnet 71" inspired her reading of "72."

Oftentimes, as a performer introduces their sonnet, the viewer gains a window into the actor’s life. The Sonnet Project creates connection, said actor Newton Buchanan, who appeared in last summer’s Merry Wives of Windsor. He’s now appeared in several sonnet readings and shared a heartfelt reflection on history and change before reading "Sonnet 59."

“If I can make them feel like I was in the room with them, or they are in the room with me, and we're disconnecting for a second and geeking out about what this dude wrote a couple centuries ago and how it connects to what's happening right now,” Buchanan said, “then my job is done.”

What, When, Where:

Delaware Shakespeare’s Sonnet Project continues each weekday to Facebook and Instagram until all 154 sonnets are performed. A series of free and ticketed Shakespeare-themed performances and discussions will also take place as part of the {Mostly} Virtual Festival,July 17 through August 2.

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