A History of Celebrating Shakespeare at Indiana University

Tomorrow is the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and many universities, libraries, scholars, and public are joining in the celebration of his life’s work. The Indiana University Archives has an alluring assortment of material that document how Indiana University has celebrated the bard’s work over the last 100 years. From James Whitcomb Riley’s tribute to Shakespeare to a Shakespearean version of Star Wars and the building of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Indiana University has certainly done its part over the years to honor and preserve the works of Shakespeare.

Shakespearean version of Star Wars written by the Indiana University Department of English, 1984.
Shakespearean version of Star Wars written by the Indiana University Department of English, 1984.

Arguably, the most exciting of the material is a Shakespearean version of Star Wars written in verse by someone in the Department of English at Indiana University. The play was to be performed by students on Shakespeare’s birthday in 1984. Act 1 begins in Luke Skywalker’s spaceship, Luke: “….Darth Vader – that beast – / Will cower from th’ advancing host / When he discerns your forceful visage / Rushing intrepid at the force.” The script is full of wit, and the impeccable verse is impressive. Unfortunately for Leia, she is accused of being unfaithful and is slain by Luke. Han speaks to Leia, “Thy wench, the princess false, is cover’d with / The rude mechanical storm trooper robot. / You’ll have computers for cousins. I die, but thou art a cuckold. (Han dies).” Luke exclaims, “Miserable strumpet!” and kills Leia. Alas, what fools these mortals be.

Letter to President William Lowe Bryan from the American Shakespearean Foundation, thanking Indiana University for their contribution to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1932.
Letter to President Bryan thanking Indiana University for their contribution to the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1932.

Under the presidency of William Lowe Bryan, Indiana University contributed funds to the American Shakespeare Foundation to help build the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. The original theatre burnt down in 1926; the new theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, was built adjacent to the original site and opened in 1932. “In behalf of the American Shakespeare Foundation I have much pleasure in reporting that the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon is now complete and will be formally opened by the Prince of Wales on April 23rd – Shakespeare’s Birthday.” Not only was enough money raised to build the new theatre, there were also “substantial” funds left over from the American Shakespeare Foundation for an endowment.

Hubert Heffner, Professor of Speech, Theatre, and Dramatic Literature at Indiana University (1955-1971), also served as acting director of the University Theatre from 1959-1960 and 1970-1971. Heffner was invited to a prestigious gala weekend for a celebration honoring the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 1964. The weekend included a visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library and a reception at the White House, hosted by President and Mrs. Johnson. Listed to the left of the letter is, “Mrs. John F. Kennedy, Honorary Chairman.” Professor Heffner taught courses on Shakespeare at Indiana University.  His research and lecture notes are still preserved in his collection and can be accessed at the Indiana University Archives.

100 years ago, Indiana University celebrated 300 years of Shakespeare by performing “A Dramatic Tribute for the Shakespeare Tercentenary Celebration of Indiana University, at Bloomington Indiana,

Letter to Hubert Heffner from the Shakespeare Anniversary Committee, inviting Heffner to a 400th Anniversary gala weekend. April 16, 1964.
Letter to Hubert Heffner from the Shakespeare Anniversary Committee, inviting Heffner to a 400th Anniversary gala weekend. April 16, 1964.

April Twenty Sixth Nineteen Sixteen” written by William Chauncy Langdon. The tribute is a beautifully printed pamphlet, with the first two leaves printed on handmade paper; some of the leaves remain uncut. Included in the celebration are notable Indiana writers: “A Tribute from James Whitcomb Riley will be read by his nephew, Edmund H. Eitel; also Tributes from Meredith Nicholson and George Ade; and a Tribute in behalf of Indiana writers and scholars as a whole will be spoken by Will David Howe.” During the tribute, Marlowe says, “HA! Here he is at last! But hush! Be still! The Indiana poet, Riley sends his word of tribute to our Will!” Riley’s nephew Edmund Eitel rises from his seat in the audience and says, “From James Whitcomb Riley: – ‘By divine miracle most obvious, more vitally than ever in life, Shakespeare lives today!”

A Tribute at Indiana University honoring 300 Years of Shakespeare. April 26, 1916.
A Tribute at Indiana University honoring 300 Years of Shakespeare. April 26, 1916.

Indiana University’s Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance has kept Shakespeare’s works alive and well with their many performances over the years. Macbeth has been among the more popular of Shakespeare’s works, not only for the brilliant plot but also for its length; it is far shorter than his other plays. The Department of Theatre performed Macbeth both in 1965 and this year. If you missed their outstanding performance of Macbeth, fear not! The King Lear project is coming to the Wells-Metz Theatre May 5-8 in honor of the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Murray McGibbon is directing the cast who will perform King Lear in original pronunciation, as it would have been spoken during the 17th century.

Whether it is in Bloomington, Indiana, Washington, D.C., or

Indiana University Theatre's production of Macbeth. December, 1965.
Indiana University Theatre’s production of Macbeth. December, 1965.

England, Indiana University has played and still plays an important role in honoring Shakespeare and preserving his works. The University is home to some the greatest works by and about Shakespeare. The Lilly Library has the First Folio along with many other magnificent pieces. The Indiana University Art Museum has beautiful works on paper depicting scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and the famous Henry Fuseli painting of The Tempest. To learn more about how Indiana University has celebrated Shakespeare over the years, visit the Indiana University Archives.

 

“…but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born.” – Beatrice, Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare

Charles Rush Forker Papers

Forker Blog008Charles Rush Forker, late Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, was born on March 11, 1927 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The eldest son of Edson W. and Mary Rush Forker, Charles received his early education at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio.  After his graduation in 1945, Forker was quickly drafted into the U.S. Army, near the close of the Second World War.  He served two years in the army as a medical corpsman.  Upon leaving the military in 1947, Forker enrolled in Bowdoin College where he studied Shakespeare and acted in plays as a member of the college-affiliated dramatic society.  Upon his graduation in 1951 (and induction into Phi Beta Kappa), Forker was selected as a recipient of a Fulbright grant to study at Oxford University in Great Britain.  He received a second B.A. there in 1953, remaining at Oxford under a graduate fellowship from Harvard University.  He received an M.A. from Oxford in 1955.  He soon returned to the United States to continue his doctoral studies at Harvard University and received his doctorate there in 1957.

Imitating a typical letter home to the families of ill soldiers, young Forker comically writes to his parents of the unfortunate news of his cancelled trip home for Christmas and his seemingly unstable state of mind brought on by such news.
Imitating a typical letter home to the families of ill soldiers, young Forker comically writes to his parents of the unfortunate news of his cancelled trip home for Christmas and his seemingly unstable state of mind brought on by such news.

As a scholar, Forker would undoubtedly be most proud of the contributions he made to his field.  However, some of his most significant and touching writings are unpublished.  Like many soldiers, while he was stationed in Germany Forker wrote regular letters to his family.  These letters reveal the trials of a young man turned soldier.  He was eighteen when he was drafted into the United States military and was disheartened by the monotony of soldier life.  Reading his letters it is clear that he liked to keep busy.  He enjoyed a challenge, and it did not seem the military could stimulate his mind to the extent that he needed.  His letters home offered him a space to escape with the people who knew him best.  Young Forker provided his family with detailed accounts of the atmosphere in Germany and the futility of war.  He could see the beauty beneath the rubble and wrote about it.  And, just as any young person would do, he asked his family to send candies and cookies, wrote about his time at the hospital, and sent postcards from his trips around Europe.  It is easy to say that he fell in love with all things England while he was abroad and carried that love with him back to the States.  He was a perpetual student and shared his passion for culture with those around him during his lifetime.  In a profile about him in the English Department’s newsletter Footnotes in 1980, the author seemed to perfectly capture Forker’s character: “Writing essays, reading plays, whipping up a bearnaise sauce, listening to Mozart, teaching classes, swimming…Charles Forker is a Renaissance man, indeed.”

Charles Forker’s papers consisting of correspondence, research, teaching files, and publications spanning 1937-2013 are housed at the IU Archives. A finding aid is now available at http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/findingaids/archives/InU-Ar-VAD4226. Contact the Archives for further information!

Other Images:

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New Finding Aid! Susan Gubar papers, 1975-2011

The distinguished feminist scholar and literary critic, Susan Gubar, retired last year as Distinguished Professor Emerita of English after teaching at IU for 37 years. The Susan Gubar papers have been processed and the collection is now available for research.

Susan Gubar with a copy of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The English Tradition, 1986.

The Gubar papers cover a wide range of topics which are often interwoven: feminist theory, gender politics, literary theory and criticism, fashion studies, science fiction studies, race studies, film studies, Holocaust studies, and the importance of Judas in the history of Western civilization. Nearly all of her published work is represented in the collection, including copies of her books, articles from obscure publications to the well-known, and foreign language versions of her work.

The collection provides insight into the development of the women’s movement through the late 1970s to the present. A substantial number of clippings represent the response to Gubar’s work from a wide range of sources. The reviews and letters show changing attitudes towards the women’s movement and illustrate the impact of Gubar’s work.

Among correspondence with colleagues and friends, the Important Papers and Valuable Letters folders include letters from celebrated writers, such as Carolyn Heilbrun, Ursula Leguin, Toni Morrison, and Adrienne Rich. There are several exchanges with Sandra M. Gilbert, Gubar’s long-time collaborator and friend. One poignant letter is from Erica Jong, who described being moved to tears by the publication of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English because it would have been unthinkable for such a book to exist when she was a student. Jong wrote that the anthology “represents the triumph of the movement in a special way. It means that our collective vision now enters the academy as a presence, a force, a named thing. (It is named; therefore it exists.)”

Poem by Ursula Leguin for Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert, 1985.
Another unique item is a poem written by Ursula Leguin for Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert in 1985, upon the publication of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women: The Tradition in English. It reads:

TO THE AUTHORS OF THE NORTON ANTHOLOGY OF LITERATURE BY WOMEN, FROM AN ANTHOLOGEE

O Gilbert and Gubar
O Gubert and Gilbar
O Sandra and Susan
O Sansan and Sudra
I chant you this mudra
I love you forilbert
for putting togubar
the Norton Antholo
or Anthony Nortolog
of literatilbert
of gubarature
by women by women
from cover to cover
I read her I love her
the trenglish addition
by women by women
by you and by me and by her and by us and by God
it is wonderful
wonderful
wonderful we are
and you are O you are
O Gilbert O Gubar!

Exuberance radiates from the Gubar papers, particularly from her work as an educator. From documents concerning the organization of conference panels and lecture series it is easy to sense the excitement generated by the exchange of ideas. A number of publications in the collection include observations and notes made by Gubar in the margins. The collection makes evident the boundless scope of Gubar’s interests and also how much she considered and valued what others produced, whether they were colleagues in the field or individuals outside the academic community.

If you want to learn more about the Susan Gubar papers, please refer to the finding aid and contact the IU Archives!