Sunday, April 22, 2012

“Brush Up Your Shakespeare”

Bill McSweeney, Dorothy McSweeney, Folger Shakespeare Library Director Michael Witmore, British Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott and Lady Susie Westmacott

by contributor Donna Shor
Photo credit: James Brantley

The show at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2012 Gala dinner was a light-hearted romp through The Bard’s canon. 
The annual event celebrates Shakespeare, games and foolery, while also marking the library's 80th anniversary.

As one of Washington's most elegant social evenings, the special event is attended by the leaders of the social, business, government and diplomatic communities.

This year, the Folger program’s quiz show format was borrowed (with permission) from National Public Radio’s long-running “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” with the title (borrowed as well) tweaked to “Wait, Wait…Forsooth!”  

The Folger even had the loan of the NPR program’s host Carl Kastell to perform on the “quiz show” that filled the Elizabethan Theatre with laughter.
Chuckles started early when Michael Witmore, the new director of the Folger Library, told of how he had anticipated the Gala and again when the witty British Ambassador took the microphone.  He and his wife Lady Westmacott were honorary chairs for the evening.

There were more guffaws when the man who is probably our area’s leading Fool, David Gardner, took the floor. He and his wife Margaret were the gala’s co-chairs, as well as the lauded donors of time and resources for its success, but he is even better known as half the two-brother team heading the famed financial advisory firm, The Motley Fool.

Chairs Margaret Gardner and David Gardner with their daughter, Katherine (center).
Adding to the fun was the skill and humor of The Washington Post’s Roxanne Roberts, who hosted and moderated the program. 

Kevin Chaffee   Roxanne Roberts   Arthur Phillips
The three panelists were Broadway playwright (six hits!) Ken Ludwig who tied for first place with poet and educator Donna Denizè,  just beating out best-selling and critically acclaimed novelist Arthur Phillips, who actually was a five time Jeopardy winner.

Also acquitting themselves well were the three guest panelists from the audience, one of whom was Congressman Rush Holt of New Jersey.  They were tactfully strong-armed up on stage by Aaron Posner, director of the Folger Theater, who created the evening’s program. 

He is directing the Folgers’s next offering, "The Taming of the Shrew,” which will have its opening night on May 7. 

The works of William Shakespeare continue to entertain and intrigue audiences around the world.  In the words of his friend and rival playwright Ben Jonson, “He was not of an age, but for all time.”