As Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Scholar in Residence, it is my pleasure to welcome you to City Desk 400, a site of stimulating discussion among thirty scholars from nine different Illinois universities about the plethora of performances that took place over the course of 2016 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s legacy. Organized by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Shakespeare 400 Chicago brought together performing artists from around the world for 863 events across 231 locations across the city, presented by sixty local cultural and creative organizations. The scholars writing for City Desk 400 help contextualize these performances with lively discussion of and commentary upon them.
Over the course of the seventeenth century, coffee house and tavern culture served as the site of spirited discussion of political issues, crime reports, and cultural affairs as customers huddled over broadsheets and ballads, or shared accounts of their recent visits to the many theaters in Southwark, site of the Globe Theater run by Shakespeare’s theater company. Today, we huddle over our smart phones, sharing similar details via the social media that increasingly replace social interactions, even if they are being used in our current pub or coffee shop cultures.
In the address to the readers prefacing the First Folio, Shakespeare’s friends and theater colleagues John Heminge and Henry Condell concluded, “if you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest danger not to understand him. And so we leave you to other of his Friends, whom if you need, can be your guides.” The writers for City Desk 400 are your guides to Shakespeare 400 Chicago, deepening and expanding all that there is to “like” about Shakespeare and his works, in all their many forms.
Regina Buccola is a professor and chair of the department of literature and languages at Roosevelt University in Chicago, where she also serves as core faculty in women’s and gender studies. Her most recent publications include (as editor) A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Critical Guide and she co-edited, with Peter Kanelos, Chicago Shakespeare Theater: Suiting the Action to the Word. She serves as the scholar-in-residence at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.