STRATFORDIANS around the world are joining in the commemorations marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
In the 1980s the respective towns of Stratford in Conneticut, USA and Ontario, Canada extended an invitation to Stratford-upon-Avon to form the Stratford Sister Cities – now named Stratfords of the World.
Exchanges between the three communities began with bands and theatre groups being hosted every few years and the link has since been extended to include Stratford in New Zealand, Stratford in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Stratford in Victoria, Australia.
Some 140 Stratfordian delegates from around the globe will be jetting to the Bard’s home town for six days of special celebrations taking in the annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations.
The Observer highlights what the five towns are planning themselves to commemorate the 400th anniversary.
* Stratford, Connecticut, will mark the anniversary by the town council issuing a proclamation in his honour on April 23.
Playwriting group the ‘Square Wrights’ will perform original one act plays with a Shakespearean theme throughout April and 35 delegates from the town will travel to Warwickshire for the Stratfords of the World reunion.
Shakespeare has had a profound effect on the town’s culture and in 1955 Stratford became home to the American Shakespeare Theatre – the boards of which have been trodden by greats such as Katharine Hepburn and James Earl Jones.
Sadly it closed in the mid 1980s and has never re-opened.
The Hudson Shakespeare Company have been bringing their ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ tour to the amphitheater behind Stratford Library for over decade years.
* Stratford, Ontario, is just over 100 miles from Niagra Falls on the Canadian-American border.
The town has been hosting a celebrated annual Shakespeare inspired festival of theatre since 1953.
This year’s programme of events is packed as ever, including performances of Macbeth, As You Like It and Shakespeare in Love.
And youngsters are also being encouraged to channel the Bard by composing their own version of Orlando’s love poem to Rosalind from As You Like It and winning wordsmiths will have their poem included in the Stratford Festival Theatre’s production of the play.
* Stratford, Prince Edward Island, is some 1,150 miles from its Ontario namesake, off of Nova Scotia.
The town’s library has created a special display of Shakespeare’s works.
Prince Edward Island’s Stratford was the last of the six towns to join the Stratfords of the World committee in 1995, marked with the naming of a new street as Shakespeare Drive – with a road number of 234, depicting Shakespeare’s birth and death date of April 23.
* Stratford, Victoria, is around 150 miles from Melbourne.
Residents are preparing to host the town’s annual Shakespeare on the River Festival. Now in its 26th year, the festival runs for three weeks and is opened on April 23 by singing ‘happy birthday’ to the Bard at the town’s Courthouse Theatre.
As well as professional and amateur performances and an art exhibition, the festival will include a masquerade ball themed around the romance of Shakespeare’s Verona and Venice in the 1500s.
And the Shelia Malady short story competition will; encourage writers of all ages to pen a work inspired by the Bard’s first play Two Gentleman of Verona.
Shelia passed away in 2014, but bequeathed some £10,250 to enable young performers to travel to Stratford upon Avon to gain theatrical experience. This year, the Groundwork Youth Theatre will be involved in the 400th anniversary celebrations as part of the Stratford World gather thanks to the money left by Shelia.
* Stratford, on New Zealand’s North Island, adopted the name Stratford-upon-Patea as a nod to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1877.
It is believed the similarity of the Patea river to the Avon led to the choice of name and the connection to Shakespeare led to some 65 streets being named after Shakespearean characters.
The Bard’s influence is still present in the town. Iit is home to New Zealand’s only glockenspiel clock tower which plays the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet three times a day.