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February 24, 2010

Shakespeare Reading Group: 38 Plays in 38 Days

Posted by webmaster
Today's guest blogger Ingrid Jendrzejewski explains why she decided to do something as crazy as read all of Shakespeare's works in ridiculously short period of time and why she thinks you should join her.

Extreme Shakespeare: Reading Shakespeare's 38 plays in as many days

There is nothing like being stuck in bed with the flu to make one reassess life.

Two weeks ago, I was in such a state. I felt miserable. I couldn't concentrate on reading, and the tv screen was just a little too bright for my headache. There was nothing to do but sit and think about all the things I'd planned to do in life that I hadn't yet accomplished.

Reading all of Shakespeare's plays was up there on my list.

I remember reading Shakespeare as a student and always assuming that of course I'd have his complete works read within, oh, a year or so after graduating. Somehow, however, years have passed and I haven't read one new Shakespeare play since my university days. That
realisation made me feel more ill than the flu.

I decided that as soon as I got better, things were going to change. I promised myself that I would not let another year pass without reading all of Shakespeare's plays from beginning to end.

Now, my life is somewhat chaotic. Things come up and time seems to evaporate around me. The casual reading-around-the-edges-of-everyday-life approach hasn't worked to date. Therefore, I knew that if I wanted to actually complete this goal, drastic measures were required.

A challenge was in order. I decided to try to read one play a day until I got through each and every play. It would be a huge time commitment, but in less than a month and a half, I would have accomplished my goal.

These kinds of crazy schemes sound great in theory, but my track record with New Years' resolutions made me wary of trusting myself once the flu was out of my system and normal life resumed. I told my friends and family that I was attempting this reading challenge so that I'd have to face Uncomfortable Questions should I get behind.

However, the whole point of reading Shakespeare is to enjoy great literature and I wanted the process of reading to be fun and full of positive, inspiring energy. Simply blackmailing myself into
succeeding with the threat of humiliation didn't seem in the spirit of the project.

It then occurred to me that perhaps there were other people in the world who felt a painful lack of Shakespeare in their lives. Perhaps, if I could find them, we could read the plays at the same time and support each other in reaching our reading goals.

That was the beginning of the 38 Days: 38 Plays project.

As soon as I felt well enough to look at computer screens, I propped myself up on some pillows, sat in bed with my laptop and threw together a website for the project. I decided to start reading on the 1st of March and spend the rest of February looking for brave, like-minded individuals who wanted to tackle this reading challenge with me.

The website 'launched' on the 17th of February. Within a few days, the site had nearly 1000 hits, the Facebook group had over 65 members and over a dozen people had decided to throw their hat in the ring. Several people have written to me saying that although they're not able to commit to reading all 38 plays, they have set their own Shakespeare-reading goals which they intend to complete during the 38:38 period. I must admit, I am delighted and amazed at
the response so far.

There are still a lot of unknowns. I worry that I do the plays a disservice by reading them so quickly. (My hope is that such an intense, whirlwind tour through these plays will provide an overview that will enrich and inspire further reading.) I'm hoping that there will be enough interest to sustain motivation and discussion throughout the 38 days. I'm hoping that everyone who participates has a wonderful experience. I'm hoping that all the people who have
signed up to this project aren't my mother in disguise, trying to make me feel good. I'm hoping and hoping and hoping that I can actually manage to read a play a day for 38 days.

Any and all are welcome to join us and I welcome comments and suggestions. Whether or not all of us reach our individual reading goals, I'm hoping that the experience will prove enjoyable to everyone who participates.

-- Ingrid Jendrzejewski, 38 Plays: 38 Days

Look for an update on how Ingrid and the rest of the brave souls are doing coming soon!