Ten Shakespeare Venues

The recent release of my book, The Bard and the Bible, has supplied me with even more reasons than usual to indulge my fascination (or, as my therapist wife says, obsession) with all things Shakespeare. So I thought I'd take a moment to update an earlier post (here) in which I reflected on the many places I have been privileged to see the Bard's plays acted. So here is a quick, updated list:
Dating back to 1995 (yes, I can remember back that far), the Belgrade Studio in Coventry, England (above), was the venue for my first (I think, maybe?) live theater Shakespeare experience: Twelfth Night, with the lovely Robin, Aaron, Aubrey, and our dear friend Nigel.
The lovely Robin and I saw Twelfth Night again at the Atlantic Theater Festival (above) in Wolfville, Nova Scotia (where I was also booked to speak to several hundred youth-type people). Sadly, this theater closed after the 2007 season.
We have enjoyed many wonderful productions and adaptations at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company: oh, let's see, Richard II, Hamlet, Much Ado, As You Like It, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Macbeth, King John, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Troilus and Cressida, and more. We were subscribers for many seasons, and hope to be so again, when the budget permits. 
It wasn't Shakespeare's script, but we had a blast seeing The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare at the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta, Georgia, a few years back. Hilarious. 
We've also seen numerous Cincinnati Shakespeare Company productions in the outdoor amphitheater at Vinoklet Winery, in Colerain Township. The above was the 20014 production (I think) of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which we were thrilled to share with my brother and sister-in-law, Don and Arvilla. 

And an unbelievable joy and thrill was the Tony-winning Broadway production of Twelfth Night in New York City in 2014, with our brother Rick and brother-in-law Glenn. Incredible! 
Another venue for Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's Shakespeare-in-the-Park productions has been Eden Park's Seasongood Pavilion, which is a great spot. I think we've seen A Midsummer Night's DreamRomeo and Juliet, and Macbeth there. 
In 2015, I got to see my first Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's Shakespeare-in-the-Park production in Oxford at the Martin Luther King Jr. uptown park. Romeo and Juliet showed up too. 
A new venue for me was the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival's Bard-a-Thon in Louisville's Central Park, which I attended with my old (and I do mean old) friend, Bill Riley, this past July. Attendees were prohibited from taking photos of the performance, and I am a rule-follower (some of the time), so I don't have any pictures of the plays, but the venue (above) was comfortable; although the temperatures were in the nineties, Bill and I sat in a shaded spot, and even made new friends! We enjoyed the 4:30 performance of The Winter's Tale and the 7:30 performance of Two Gentlemen of Verona, both of which were ably performed by a versatile cast (which was displayed especially in the second play, an adaptation set in 1919, complete with musical numbers drawn from that period). Delightful! 
Completing the list (so far) was a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Romeo and Juliet (and Part 2 of my official book launch for The Bard and the Bible) at The Arts Center at Dunham, in Westwood on the west side of Cincinnati. Though it was a very hot day, the Arts Center staff could not have been more hospitable, and the event went well, from first love to dying gasp. And, since I was accompanied by the lovely Robin, love was in the air. 

So that's ten different Shakespeare venues--so far. Next season I fully intend to repeat a couple of these experiences and add the young Richmond (IN) Shakespeare Festival to my list. I also have high hopes of someday getting to the Globe in London (which we just missed on our 1995 England trip), the Blackfriars Theater of the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia, and the Stratford Festival in Toronto. Accepting donations now. 

The St. John's Bible at Books by the Banks

Last Saturday at the Books by the Banks book festival at Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, I was blessed to meet a new friend, who came to my book table and introduced himself (and even bought a copy of The Bard and the Bible!). James Green is the--get this--User Experience/Assessment Librarian at the Xavier University Library in Cincinnati. Sounds impressive, huh? Well, you don't even know.
James shared with me the university's amazing volume of the Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible, a hand-lettered, hand-illuminated manuscript of the Bible in seven volumes, created by the cooperation of the monks of St. John's Abbey in Minnesota and a team of artists coordinated by Donald Jackson in Wales.
The result is utterly breathtaking. There is no way to describe the vivid, enchanting art and craftsmanship of this volume--and it is just a part of the whole project!
I asked James for a complimentary copy, but he demurred. Probably didn't want others asking, don't ya know. But I couldn't have been more excited and blessed to see this amazing portion of an amazing Bible, and to know that Cincinnati's Xavier University owns and shares a piece of it!

Books by the Banks, Cincinnati OH

While everyone else in the world was chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool, I spent yesterday at the Books by the Banks Festival in downtown Cincinnati, signing copies of The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional). I was kind of a big deal. Bigger than the 120 other authors in the author pavilion. Some of them weren't even in costume!
Still, everyone managed to keep their cool around me and avoid embarrassing me with long lines and requests to take pictures with me. The self control everyone exhibited was really quite impressive.
The Bard enjoyed meeting (and sharing a table with) Mark Twain, also known as author Mark Dawidziak.
And the Bard shared a moment with Pope Francis, though the pontiff's greeting was a little flat. He was probably jetlagged.
Super Why had a bajillion questions for the Bard, and Will had a few for Super Why too. Like "Who Wore It Better?"
The biggest celebrity of the day, however, was former Reds batboy, Teddy Kremer, who classed up the joint considerably.

It was a fine time spent with book lovers and "book writers," talking about Shakespeare and Mark Twain and ghost stories and bourbon and vegetable butchers and more. Writers are such interesting people.

Books by the Banks Authors' Reception, Mercantile Library, Cincinnati OH

The lovely Robin was kind and loving enough to accompany me last night to the Books by the Banks authors' reception at the Mercantile Library in downtown Cincinnati. I have long wanted to see this historic library, which dates to 1835 (though its current location is not the original location).
 Wow. One of the first things to catch our eye was the spiral staircase. We asked what was up there, and on being told, we ventured up.
 It leads to the conference room on the twelfth floor of the building. Awesome.
The Mercantile Library is a membership library (meaning it is open to members, or subscribers). Its name refers not to the content of its collection but to the forty-five merchants and clerks who founded it on April 18, 1835.
The building, at 414 Walnut Street, is the fourth structure on the site. The space on the eleventh and twelfth floors was designed for the Library in 1903; the building was completed in 1908. Many of the shelves, desks and chairs currently in the Library date back to previous buildings.

Oh, and the authors' reception was a lovely affair, offering delicious appetizers and drinks, an award ceremony, and hobnobbing with authors and other guests. We didn't hob. Nor did we nob. But we had a great time, and I'm so glad to have seen this amazing, historic library.

FatKats, Georgetown, KY

 After two days and nights at a conference in Louisville, the lovely Robin met me last Saturday evening at our overnight lodgings in Georgetown, Kentucky, where we stayed before a preaching engagement I had the next day. I had already gotten dining recommendations from a friend, and we enjoy discovering local joints, so we headed out to FatKats Pizzeria & Restaurant at 3073 Paris Pike in Georgetown.
FatKats is the two time winner of BEST PIZZA MIDWEST and two time winner of BEST PIZZA CENTRAL KY. So I ordered wings. Seriously. But they were really good wings, and I can highly recommend the "BBQ Bourbon" sauce, which I had on the side. Robin had a personal Hawaiian pizza, which she enjoyed, too.

The place was hopping (at about 7:30 or so in the evening), and the service was excellent. If you go, tell them Bob sent you. They'll have no idea who that is, but they'll smile and treat you right.

The Salvation Army, Lexington, KY

The lovely Robin and I had such a wonderful time of study and worship at The Salvation Army in Lexington, Kentucky. We enjoyed a fine Sunday school class taught by a former babysitter of mine (I was a baby once, you know), and a rich time of worship, during which they actually let me preach! I know, crazy!
The reading of Scripture during the sermon, from Revelation 8-9, was ably punctuated by the skills of Jeff Barrington on the shofar (above). Thanks, Jeff!
And part of the joy of it all was reuniting with many long-time friends (see, that's better than calling them "old" friends, because they're already pretty jealous of how young I look, so I don't want to pile on). Only a few of them were willing to take photos with us (and some of them took photos on THEIR phones, not OURS!).

The Salvation Army, located at 736 W. Main Street in downtown Lexington, is a warm, welcoming, working community led by Majors Tom and Susan Hinzman, and we were so grateful for their kindness and hospitality.

The Two Sisters Bookstore, Richmond, IN

I am a big fan of local bookstores, and especially those that sell new, used, and rare books and host book clubs, writer's groups, and more. The Two Sisters Bookstore, in Richmond, Indiana, is all that--and a cup of tea! 
The store is located in Richmond's historic Depot District. I was there to meet with a friend coming from the north, and I took a risk in suggesting this for our get-together, since I'd never been there. But I wasn't disappointed in the least. Everything about the store was both comforting and stimulating, with inviting seating areas, specialty looseleaf teas with literarily-themed names (I had a cup of the "Prince Hal" mix), unique literary gift items, and 2800 square feet of books, logically organized and carefully shelved. 
My friend and I found our way to the back of the store, and enjoyed tea and conversation in a room devoted to one of my favorites, Sherlock Holmes (see below). 
The family-owned Two Sisters has been in business for four years and will soon be the only bookstore in Richmond! I recommend it highly and plan to return as often as possible. It is located at 193 Fort Wayne Avenue in Richmond, Indiana.