THEATER TALK to Commemorate 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's Death This Week

Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro returns to THEATER TALK for a timely Shakespeare 400th Death-Day Anniversary Special, culled from two previous Shapiro appearances on the series and merged to celebrate Shakespeare's 452nd birthday next week and acknowledge the 400th anniversary of his death on April 23, 1616. Shapiro discusses two of his books in separate segments, Shakespeare in America - An Anthology from the Revolution to Now (with Shapiro as Editor, published by the Library of America) and The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 (published by Simon and Schuster).

Because Puritans, who disapproved of theater, first colonized the U.S., Shakespeare didn't become popular in The New World until the late 18th century when the plays were promulgated by travelling acting companies, even into the far western territories. After that, Shakespeare was produced by diverse groups of people in all kinds of venues. For example, Second Lieutenant, Ulysses S. Grant, played Desdemona in drag in 1845 on an army base.

Other topics on the show include Orson Welles' all African-American production in Harlem, called Voodoo Macbeth; Chicago social activist Jane Addams' powerful protest against railroad car manufacturer George Pullman, portraying the tyrannical employer as a modern-day King Lear; the impact of Joe Papp's landmark Shakespeare Festival; and the Astor Place Riot of 1849, where a British production of Shakespeare's Macbeth incited a bloody melee in lower Manhattan, which resulted in 20 people dead and 100 injured.

The second interview with Shapiro focuses on his book, The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, which details a highly creative period for Shakespeare (as well as a time of plague and social upheaval in post-Elizabethan England), during which the playwright introduced Macbeth, King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra, three of his most profound tragedies.

Co-hosted by Michael Riedel of the New York Post and producer Susan Haskins, this latest edition of THEATER TALK premieres in the New York metropolitan area on Thirteen/PBS, Friday, April 22 at 1:30 AM (early Saturday) and Sunday, April 24 at 11:30 AM. It re-airs on CUNY TV* Saturday 4/23 at 8:30 PM, Sunday 4/24 at 12:30 PM, and Monday 4/25 at 7:30 AM, 1:30 PM, and 7:30 PM; as well as on WLIW/21 on Monday 4/25 at 5:30 PM - a total of 8 showings this week.

THEATER TALK is jointly produced by the not-for-profits Theater Talk Productions and CUNY TV. The program is taped in the Himan Brown TV and Radio Studios at The City University of New York (CUNY) TV in Manhattan, and is distributed to 100+ participating public television stations nationwide. THEATER TALK is made possible in part by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The CUNY TV Foundation, and The Friends of THEATER TALK.

*CUNY TV, the City University of New York television station, is broadcast in the New York metropolitan area on digital Ch. 25.3 and cablecast in the ciity's five boroughs on Ch. 75 (Time Warner and Optimum Brooklyn), Ch. 77 (RCN), and Ch. 30 (Verizon FiOS).

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