By Clair Martin
If you missed the Shakespeare Festival held at The Huntington on Shakespeare’s traditional birthday, Sunday, April 24 you missed out on a fantastic event. From my viewpoint in the Shakespeare Garden, this event was a huge success. We were nearly swamped all day with large crowds of families and young people eager to participate and learn a bit more about The Huntington and William Shakespeare. My impression, confirmed later, was that the larger component of those attending was Huntington Members and their families.
Once we achieved the critical mass of visitors, our Maypole remained very busy; in use until closing time! We had families with very young children, teens, and grandparents participating throughout the day. Everyone seemed excited about the event and well-behaved. It was gratifying to see families participating in the Shakespeare Scavenger Hunt and all the related activities.
I did have a chance to break away from all the garden events to briefly observe how other activities were being received. The guild of St. George and the various Shakespearian play vignettes were extremely popular and of the highest quality. The acting and costuming was excellent and much appreciated by our visitors. I observed “The Taming of the Shrew” on the Art Gallery loggia and a bit of “Macbeth” on the South Terrace. Both were well-attended and received by the near capacity audience as you can see from the photos. I even observed large crowds going into the Library to view the Shakespearian Folios.
Observing the nearly 6000 visitors that day as I did – manning the Shakespeare Garden all day – I was astonished by the number of young people moving about the garden and participating in the events. It was obvious to me that many of these young people were spending their Sunday at The Huntington as a school assignment for extra credit. A number asked me where specific plants and the First Folios were located so that they could fulfill their assignments.
The Education and Volunteer staff and the Guild of St. George deserve high accolades for their organization and management of this immensely successful family event. Huntington Security and Maintenance staffs also deserve recognition for managing to deal with the nearly capacity crowds on a Sunday. And, of course, there were our Huntington Garden Docents and Volunteers without whom we would find it very difficult indeed to manage to produce this kind of special event.
The Huntington should be very proud of the draw our collections and events hold for our Members and the public at large. Several times during the day, I could not help thinking to myself, ‘all these people are here to celebrate William Shakespeare!’ Truly, it was an amazing phenomenon to see these crowds of people come to honor a 400-year-dead writer!
Clair Martin, Ruth B. and E. L. Shannon Curator of the Rose and Perennial Gardens