Shakespeare has been in Seattle almost from the beginning — just 13 years after scouts from the Denny party landed on our rainy shores.
Today, as befits a city with international aspirations, Seattle has its own Shakespeare troupe (Seattle Shakespeare Company). For many Seattle culture vultures, making the pilgrimage each year to Ashland, Ore., for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a must.
But Shakespeare has been here almost from the beginning — just 13 years after scouts from the Denny party landed on our rainy, tree-shrouded shores.
Ann Ferguson, a special collections librarian for Seattle Public Library, has been busy preparing a “Shakespeare in Seattle” exhibit that will run concurrently with the First Folio exhibition. She will give a presentation on the subject on April 9. She provided highlights of Shakespeare in Seattle: Others come from historylink.org.
April 23, 1864: The first professional theatrical engagement in Seattle was a dramatic reading of Shakespeare by actress Edith Mitchell in Plummer’s Hall. According to the Seattle Gazette, Mitchell, known as a “celebrated tragic actress” in the press, “found herself detained” in Seattle while she waited for the next ship to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii). “It rarely happens that our town is favored with an entertainment of a purely intellectual character,” said the Gazette, surely something of an understatement at this point in city history.
1868: The Seattle Amateurs gave their debut performance at Yesler’s Pavilion, built by town founder/impresario/physician Henry Yesler. The program included the Ghost Scene from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” according to HistoryLink.
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1875: The first production of a Shakespeare play in Seattle — “The Taming of the Shrew” — was performed by the Fanny Morgan Phelps Company.
Sept. 20, 1893: This event must have left the locals breathless — internationally renowned actors Ellen Terry and Henry Irving performed “The Merchant of Venice” at the Seattle Theater. Speaking of breathless, the Post-Intelligencer gushed that “the spectacle … is one to quicken the soul, stir the heart and call forth the highest efforts of the most resplendent genius.”
May 1909: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was produced at the Moore Theatre.
June 1939: The Seattle-based Negro Unit of the Federal Theater Project performed a musical version of “The Taming of the Shrew” at the Metropolitan Theater.
November 13, 1963: The Seattle Repertory Theater opened its inaugural season with a production of “King Lear” in a theater created for the Seattle World’s Fair.
August 1991: The Seattle Shakespeare Company mounted its inaugural production, “Richard III.”