We were intrigued to learn that Zaporizhzhia, the sixth-largest city in Ukraine, is home to the exciting academic and cultural venture that is the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre

Assistant Professor Darya Lazarenko writes:

When this idea first came up, everybody laughed at us – what would Shakespeare have to do with a totally unknown-to-the-world industrial city in the south of Ukraine? We agreed, and jokingly spoke about establishing a Shakespeare Museum. Why not, after all? To paraphrase the words of Ben Jonson, “he was not of an age, but for all time” – and all countries (and cities, at that)! We kept calm and carried on. And so, in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine in 2009 the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre was established by Professor Nataliya Torkut, a Ukrainian Shakespeare and Renaissance scholar, and a team of devoted ‘Ariels’.

Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre

Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre

Today the USC is one of the leading Ukrainian academic institutions in the domain of Shakespeare studies, and though we are still sometimes looked at as ‘upstart crows’, we do not mind – we feel proud, in fact. Our aim is to help Ukrainian scholars, teachers, students, readers and theatre-goers believe they all can be upstart crows too.

The Centre organized and successfully carried out five International Shakespeare conferences (in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2016). In cooperation with the Union of Ukrainian Women in the USA, we established an Annual competition of Shakespeare research papers for young Ukrainian scholars, named after Vitaliy Keis. We all very much enjoy reading those ambitious, daring and sometimes even touchingly iconoclastic works that are sent to us for review. We believe this initiative will help us fight the “copy and paste” syndrome that has befallen the young generation.

Professor Nataliya Torkut

Professor Nataliya Torkut

In 2009 the Centre launched the website The Ukrainian Shakespeare Portal, which is the first attempt of multimedia representation of Ukrainian Shakespeareana. The portal is regularly updated – it contains a large selection of articles on Shakespeare-related issues (written in Ukrainian, Russian and English), Ukrainian translations of the Bard’s drama and poetry, and an extensive database concerning the Ukrainian reception of Shakespeare’s legacy. Going online for us is one of the ways to prove Shakespeare is not just modern and relevant, but is at the very edge cutting edge today.

To foster Shakespeare scholarship in Ukraine, the Centre has established the annual scholarly journal Shakespeare Discourse (three issues have been published so far). This journal has gained recognition not only in Ukraine but also abroad. Its regular contributors are Shakespeare researchers from the USA, Canada, the UK, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Germany and the Netherlands.

Shakespeare Tragedies Kyiv
We have already started a process of collecting a special Shakespeare library which is unique for Ukraine. Thanks to donations made by Helmut Bonheim, Sophie Pashe, Stanley Wells, Balz Engler, Paul Franssen, Daniel Doerksen, Mary Elisabeth Smith, Michael Dobson and others, this library will allow us to provide critical works on Shakespeare to our colleagues all over Ukraine.

Another aim of the Centre – probably, the most significant one in the long-term perspective – is spreading Shakespeare’s word among young people in our country and making the Bard’s heritage a core element of the Ukrainian school literary curriculum. The members of the Centre conducted several seminars on teaching Shakespeare at school, established the annual competition for school teachers ‘The Best Shakespeare Lesson’ (since 2013), and offer scholarly and methodological support of Shakespeare-related projects at school. In 2014 we launched the email subscription Shakescribe.ua which contains curious facts about the Bard, his writings, life and times.

Professor Kateryna Vasylyna

Professor Kateryna Vasylyna

Youngsters are the most challenging and at the same time the most gratifying audience. They often come to us with a conviction that Shakespeare is just a monument on a high pedestal – celebrated, even worshipped, but – alas! – boring. Our aim here is to let the kids see the truth about Shakespeare – his plays are anything but boring! We do it by encouraging them to play along – become Shakespeare scholars themselves and discover, for example, why Malvolio’s stockings were actually yellow and why he so much favoured the notorious cross garters.

They become philosophers when dwelling on the mysterious words of Ben Jonson: “Thou are a monument without a tomb” and work on their eloquence while defending Shakespeare-the-glover’s-son against the anti-Stratfordian claims. By finding out that Shakespeare married young and that he turned out to be a very successful businessman they establish a close ‘supertemporal’ connection with him – he seems to them younger and less of a monument. We hope that in such a way we will kindle the light of curiosity that will in the future make them devour hundreds and thousands of books – not only Shakespeare, but other writers too. We hope that reading will help them change the world and make it a better place for all of us to live in – without war and hatred.

Shakespeare figures Torkut 2
Even more projects we see in our mind’s eye. And this, probably, is one of the best things about our Centre – it gives hope, it inspires and makes you believe in miracles – with all the slings and arrows still flying around in these turbulent times. If you would like to join our company of dreamers, “lunatics, lovers and poets”, you are very welcome! We are looking forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions, words of encouragement or criticism, anything from love letters to translations and lesson plans – at lrs_info@meta.ua

For more information, visit the Ukrainian Shakespeare Centre website.

10,000 life-like Shakespeare masks to be given away to Bard fans at Stratford-upon-Avon birthday celebrations!

Shakespeare Mask (2)
[Shakespeare Mask and painting by artist Geoffrey Tristram]

A commemorative Shakespeare Mask will be issued as a souvenir for 10,000 visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon on Shakespeare’s birthday. The gift comes courtesy of parade organisers Shakespeare’s Celebrations, who are preparing the 2016 festivities to mark 400 years since Shakespeare’s death.

During the traditional Quill and Flag Unfurling ceremonies at the heart of this year’s Birthday Parade, the Master of Ceremonies will invite the crowds to put on their masks and give ‘Three Cheers for Shakespeare!’
On the reverse of the mask, there’s a quick and easy guide to the Birthday Parade and other events on the day. Students from local schools will be distributing the 10,000 Shakespeare Masks from around 9:30 on the morning of 23 April in the town centre.

3 parade
In 2015, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council jointly commissioned the development of a portrait of the Bard which could be used to create a novel celebrity face mask. The image had to be a recognisable likeness of William Shakespeare, in a high definition, photographic quality for production as a cardboard face mask.

Mike Gittus, Chairman of Stratford District Council said: “This was always going to be a challenge with Shakespeare’s death having been early in the 17th century, long before any form of camera. We concluded that just as important as the accuracy of the image of the mask, it had to be publicly recognisable as that of the famous Bard of Avon. Most importantly the chosen image had to be capable of being converted into a full frontal face mask.

“We knew that when ‘the world’ ponders on Shakespeare, it sees in its mind’s eye the famous Droeshout engraving of him. This is the picture inside the First Folio of his collected works printed in 1623 and the accuracy of this engraving was endorsed by his contemporary Ben Jonson. The choice was suddenly made simple. Armed with world famous picture, the search was on for an artist to produce a suitable version for conversion into a mask.”

The call was successfully answered by local artist Geoffrey Tristram. Based in Stourbridge, West Midlands and with a lifetime’s experience as a painter and illustrator, Geoff set about discovering what Shakespeare really looked like.

He takes up the tale: “I’m a meticulous kind of fellow and looked at many images of the Bard, taking countless measurements of facial features, cross referencing and overlaying them. I also studied colouring and texture of skin. Gradually, a shape common to several portraits emerged which fitted remarkably closely to the famous Droeshout engraving. But it views the subject at an angle, so my research helped me create a new, head-on view of the face. A typical Elizabethan ruff completed the picture and my portrait became a very convincing Bard!”

Shakespeare scan low res
Geoff was so encouraged by the results of the project that he proposed a second portrait, an oil on canvas which he’s also now completed.

Both portraits will be on private display in the Town Hall over the Birthday Weekend, 20-24 April, transferring for public display to the reception area of Stratford-on-Avon District Council in Elizabeth House for the following week to coincide with the Stratford Literary Festival.

Go here for the official Shakespeare’s Celebrations website.

Globe’s Read Not Dead presents staged reading of Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse


Since 1995, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre have been presenting productions with less than 12 hours of rehearsal time through their Read not Dead programme. And at 4pm on Sunday 29 June they will be performing Every Man in his Humour in their recently-opened indoor theatre the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Written by Shakespeare’s famous contemporary, friend and rival Ben Jonson, the play was first staged in 1598 by Shakespeare’s own company The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. And according to the published folio, Shakespeare himself took on the acting role of Old Kno’well.

In Sunday’s performance, distinguished Shakespeare authority Professor Stanley Wells will step into Shakespeare’s shoes by playing Old Kno’well. Joining him on stage will be a cast of experienced actors from stage and screen, including Blackadder comedy hero Tim McInnerny, along with Alan Cox and David Oakes.

Having received their scripts in the morning, the cast will take to the stage at 4pm to perform Jonson’s legendary comedy of misperceptions and deceit. “These are not polished productions, but live experiments,” says a spokeswoman from Shakespeare’s Globe. “There is a shared spirit of adventure and excitement for actors and audiences.”

Go here for tickets and more information.

Every Man in his Humour by Ben Jonson

Sunday 29 June, 4pm

Sam Wanamaker Theatre,
Shakespeare’s Globe,
21 New Globe Walk,
London SE1 9DT