Wellesley College Shakespeare Society checked out 128 books from Clapp library and stocked up on caffeine and snacks to read 37 plays and 154 sonnets in 24 hours. The society invited the campus to join in taking on the formidable task of reading all of Shakespeare’s works.
Leve Freeman ’15, vice president of the Shakespeare Society, organized the event and strategically spread members of the society throughout the campus at noon on Friday. They began readings in Stone-Davis, El Table, Clapp Library and the Shakespeare House, where they hoped non-members would be intrigued enough to join in. In more recent years they have decided that “roaming” is the best way to involve more people.
“It’s one of our most popular events for non-Shakers because there are so many people who like Shakespeare who aren’t in Shakes,” Em White ’15 said.
Shakespeare Society was holding a reading of “Richard III,” and afterward, “Macbeth” in Café Hoop at the same time as the First Year Formal in Tishman Commons. Students enjoying food at the café or taking a rest from the formal were able to participate.
Elise Brown ’17, who is not a member of the society, had come especially to read with the group. She participated last year as well and enjoyed it.
“I love the communal aspect of it — that it’s everyone joining together to enjoy something they love. I get to share in this thing that’s so powerful and fun,” Brown said.
There were a certain number of plays that the members and people who joined in had to read through in each location before they could reconvene at the Shakespeare House to continue together.
Kanika Vaish ’17, a member of the society, was in the Stone-Davis common room, attempting to speed through “King Henry V” with fellow member White. After finishing a shift at El Table, she had taken the last shift in the residential hall.
“I like the adrenaline rush because we’re on a timer, but we somehow manage to always get it done. It feels really good to finish. We finished ‘Midsummer’s’ in El Table and we all joined in for Puck’s last monologue,” Vaish said.
Members did not have to stay for the whole 24 hours; they were only obligated to stay for one or two. However if they did decide to stay, which a majority did, they spent the night in the Shakespeare House.
By 2 a.m., members and non-members were spread around the house lying on benches in the living room under blankets, in the basement or on the stage upstairs. Although reading with more than one person was preferable, if the society wanted to finish all of the reading in 24 hours some people had to start plays by themselves and encourage others visiting the house to participate.
In each section of the house, members had different genres of Shakespeare’s works, with the problem plays in the kitchen and poems in the music room. The members kept each other updated on which works they had finished by crossing them off master lists and posting on Instagram to publicize their successes.
“My personal favorite is reading plays at 4:30 in the morning and plays that you’ve never even heard of. And at 4:30 in the morning you’re reading really lousy plays that no one’s ever wanted to because they’re terrible,” Erin Nealer ’15, president of the Shakespeare Society, said.
Not only does this event foster a sense of community, but it is also a time for members of the society to reminisce on previous years. Nealer explained that when a long-time member participates in the reading of a play in which they had acted in in previous years, they often assume their old roles once again.
In the final stage of 24 Hour Shakes, the society gathered together to speed-read through the play they will be performing this semester: “Hamlet.” The actors took the opportunity to rehearse their new lines in the last hours of the event and successfully completed the full reading of everything Shakespeare at about 10:45 in the morning.