116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
During the month of his birth, Riverside Theatre has been celebrating England’s finest playwright not for his rich tapestry of dramas, comedies and histories, but for his lesser-known writings: his poetry.
While William Shakespeare’s exact birth date in April 1564 remains unknown, it commonly is celebrated April 23, which also was the date of his death in 1616, at age 52.
So from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today, Riverside Theatre’s artists will gather in downtown Iowa City to stage a free marathon reading of the Bard of Avon’s 154 sonnets.
The temperatures might not make actors and audiences compare it to a summer’s day, but on any day, the event should smell as sweet, whether viewers are listening at the Weatherdance Fountain on the Pedestrian Mall or via livestream on social media.
In a separate sonnet celebration, ticketed audiences have until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to see a modern take on this poetic art form, through Riverside Theatre’s riveting virtual production of “Sonnets for an Old Century,” published in 2000.
This online version clocks at just under two hours, but the time fleets swiftly as 23 of the Corridor’s finest actors journey to a mystical space suspended in the magical mist between life and death.
Their world is created in the best marriage of green screen technology and stage craft, where Rob Merritt and S. Benjamin Farrar have filmed each actor separately, then woven them into a fairyland setting that makes them look almost elfin in their ethereal environment.
Written by Jose Rivera in anthology form, where the actors perform unrelated monologues, the themes and issues sound like they were written yesterday, not 20 years ago. It’s a sad wake-up call for how little has changed.
What: The Sonnet Project
Reading: Marathon reading Shakespeare’s sonnets, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today (Friday, April 23, 2021), Weatherdance Fountain on the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall downtown and livestreaming on social media; free; riversidetheatre.org
Play: “Sonnets for an Old Century,” online through 11:59 p.m. Sunday; $15 adults, $10 students, Riverdog members free, at riversidetheatre.org/sfaoc
Bullying. Racial strife. Gun violence. Weapons in schools. Life. Death. Dreams. Desires. Parenting. Prison. Family. Sin. All are examined — some with an unexpected gut-punch, others with a world-weary heart. And, thankfully, a couple are funny.
Patrick Du Laney as Geno Silva is nearly unrecognizable behind chunky Martin Scorsese glasses. His attitude is hilarious as he pouts about an episode of identity theft — in the physical, not financial, sense. Rachael Lindhart is feisty as Esther, recounting her short political run.
Karle Meyers is heartbreaking as Ana, plumbing the depths of despair over an incident that haunts her soul. And Tierra Plowden is shattering as Dawnn, describing through tears how tornadoes full of old hatreds are taking her to “some anti-Oz, where the yellow brick road’s red with blood.”
Everyone’s fate hangs in the balance of these words, flung into the universe, waiting and deserving to be heard.
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