MANALAPAN, NJ – William Shakespeare may have died 400 years ago next month, but there is no doubt he is alive and well within the Monmouth County Library system.

“Shakespeare has had such an influence over the centuries on all manner of written and oral works, it is important that the library highlight some of the impact he has had on the literary world,” said Renee Swartz, Chairperson of the Monmouth County Library Commission. “The branch managers have designed and are offering a broad variety of activities to entertain and educate people of all ages on the importance and sheer entertainment of Shakespeare in literature.”

With more programs still in the process of being planned and implemented, the list of activities and programs is not yet complete, Swartz continued, urging interested residents to keep in contact with their local branch to ensure they see the broad spectrum of ideas that is being presented.

As with all county library programs, there is no charge, all are invited to attend and participate. There is no registration required for any of the Shakespearean activities during April.

   As an example of the diversity being offered, Swartz cited the Shakespeare Live! Presentation which will be held at the Library Headquarters, 125 Symmes Dr, on Sunday, April 17 at 2 p.m. The educational touring company of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, located at Drew University, is a troupe of professional acts who will bring Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream back to life and offer the audience a chance to ask questions after the play. The performance is family-friendly and geared to entertain everyone from as young as the fourth grade level.

   The Shakespeare Theatre presentation is one of many special Shakespearean activities at the headquarters library; another highlight of the month will be a series of movies or filmed stage versions of different Shakespearean plays offered daily at 2 p.m. beginning April 1. The plays scheduled include both comedy and drama, ranging from Twelfth Night and Much Ado about Nothing to 10 Things I Hate About You, a modern re-telling of Taming of the Shrew.

 Also planned at the library headquarters is an evening presentation of Macbeth by Raconteur Radio, a production company that stages theatrical presentations of vintage radio plays and classic works of literature. Cited in the Newark Star-Ledger as one of the seven best things to do in New Jersey, and termed “Guerrilla Theater” by the New York Times, the production company features theatrical lighting, period costumes, vintage commercials, along with Golden Age radio equipment and unique sound effects. This program will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 21.

Programs at the Eastern Branch, Route 35, Shrewsbury, include films of a variety of Shakespeare’s plays, offered Thursdays beginning April 7 at 7 p.m. Highlight of the month at Eastern Branch will be exploring Shakespeare’s Sonnets, a discussion and presentation led by Chris Bogart, and Gregg Glory. Bogart is a Jersey Shore Poets and Shakespearean scholar and Glory manages a micro-publishing house, Blast Press. The program, besides presenting ‘dueling’ Shakespearean sonnets, will also include audience participation on sonnets.

Shakespeare 101 with John Dias, Artistic Director of the Two River Theater in Red Bank, will be at the Manalapan library Monday, April 18, beginning at 7 p.m. In addition to being the Artistic Director of Two River Theater, Dias is an expert on the work of Shakespeare and is a professor on Shakespeare at Columbia University. The program at the library will include context, history, and insight by Dias into the writer many consider the greatest playwright of all time. There will be discussions on how directors and designers make choices about sets and costumes, and how actors learn to speak Shakespeare’s heightened language in a way that makes it accessible to audiences. Whether a newbie or long time a devotee of the Bard, the evening guarantees a fresh appreciation of Shakespeare and his unforgettable work.  

At the Colts Neck branch of the Library, one of the Shakespearean inspired programs is a Shakespeare Poetry Workshop… “Poemo, Poemo, Wherefore Art Thou?” ... on Saturday, April 23, beginning at 2 p.m. Visitors are invited to write their own poetry as sonnets or a different verse; a variety of topics from the Bard’s writing will be suggested for the workshop.

   Libraries will also be featuring Shakespeare-related displays, ranging from one on the author’s famous sayings, with a contest to match the individual sayings with the play in which it originated slated for Manalapan, to book displays, movies, and other highlights of Shakespeare’s works.

   Blending Shakespeare with the NJ Maker’s Day slated for Saturday, March 19, patrons will have the opportunity will try their hand at creating a Lego display, building Anne Hathaway’s cottage. The finished product will be on display during Shakespeare month in the main reading room.