Through rain, sunshine, or even a global pandemic, the annual Shakespeare Celebration cannot be halted. Although the joy of gathering together outside of Alumni Hall was missed, the show must go on—and go on it did. Professor Gary Bouchard, Head of the English Department and creator of the birthday celebration, was determined to make it so.
The annual sonnet reading was held live on Zoom Thursday, April 23, and was also recorded on the Saint Anselm College Facebook page. The yellow banner that resurfaces each year was displayed proudly behind Professor Bouchard as he introduced each sonnet reader.
Though not everything in the celebration can transfer to online (like the birthday cake)—nor can it possibly live up to viewing the celebration in person—it was certainly one for the Saint Anselm history books. About one-third of the readers were Saint Anselm alumni, which equates to about 50 readers out of 154 sonnets. On top of this, the Facebook live stream reached over 10,000 views throughout the time it was airing. The celebration reached farther than it ever has, and Bouchard says that future readings are likely to be live-streamed as well.
“[It was] just astounding and so encouraging that so many different people wanted part or all of this event in their lives at this time, that so many people from across the country and overseas had Shakespeare’s sonnets washing through their kitchens and living rooms and offices and bedrooms on April 23rd,” Bouchard says.
When asked what the hardest part of holding the celebration over Zoom, Bouchard responded, “The most difficult challenge was coming up with a creative and efficient technological solution to make it work. Steve McDevitt, the Director of I.T. and Jason Kolnos, the Social Media Coordinator, were key. Both devoted themselves to creatively making this event happen. Without them it would not have been possible.”
The format of the event was indeed creative and effective. When each speaker began to read their sonnet, their face was displayed next to the actual text. The transitions were as smooth as they usually are in person as each sonnet flowed into the next, and eventually into some live performances of Shakespeare’s plays.
“It’s the first sonnet reading marathon I’ve hosted in my socks,” Bouchard says. “And as one alum texted to me: ‘Where there’s a Will there’s a Way!’ And there will always be a Will.”