FAIRFIELD, Conn. — The play was the thing on April Fools Day as dozens of bard-loving bookworms converged on the Pequot Library in Southport for its Shakespeare Family Festival.
Elise Broach, an Easton-based author of the popular juvenile mystery “Shakespeare’s Secret,” considered the many theories that the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon didn’t actually write the iconic plays attributed to him, while Mark Silence, a theater teacher at Stamford’s King School, entertained about 50 with a talk on sword fighting in the library auditorium.
“It’s hard to do Shakespeare and not run into a sword fight,” he told the crowd. “All of the histories and most of the tragedies have some form of sword fight.”
Silence invited dozens of children to the front of the auditorium to touch and handle a rapier, a variety of swords and even a light saber a la “Star Wars.” Students from King School and Westport’s Greens Farms Academy entertained with songs and sonnets.
The day’s events were planned to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, said Heather-Marie Montilla, the library's executive director.
The festival was also an offshoot of the Pequot’s current exhibition, “Uncovering Shakespeare.” The library is lucky enough to have complete second, third and fourth folios of Shakespeare, and much of a first, she said of the display.
“We wanted to make it accessible to people of all ages,” she said, “For the young and the young at heart.”
Broach, author of 20 children’s books, presented a fascinating lecture about how she goes about her own work. After writing several picture books, she decided to try her hand at a chapter book, writing a chapter every two weeks, she said.
“After a year and a half, I had written a novel!” she said of “Shakespeare’s Secret.”
Broach discussed the elements that make a good mystery, taking several questions from the children gathered. Then she considered one of the great mysteries — whether William Shakespeare was truly the author of his plays.
Shakespeare, who was a grain merchant, owned a theater company and co-owned the famous Globe Theater, but he also had a sixth-grade education, she said.
“And Shakespeare left nothing — not a scrap of evidence — of his literary career,” she said. “Not so much as a fountain pen.”
She offered other possibilities from Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford to Sir Francis Bacon.
“Some people believe Queen Elizabeth I is the real author of William Shakespeare’s plays,” said Broach, who prefers to believe Shakespeare is the author. “Either way, Shakespeare is still relevant today.”
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