The Chapel Hill Shakespeare Group is “all Shakespeare, all the time,” according to member Maureen Dolan Rosen.
When and where do you meet? We started out in 2007 meeting at a coffee shop, following the standard “read the book ahead of time and we’ll discuss at the meeting” protocol. After about four meetings, we realized that what we loved more than anything was reading Shakespeare out loud. The coffee shop was too noisy for this, so we moved the meetings to my home.
Tell us about your club. We’ve had pretty much the same 15 to 20 members since then. I used to provide a cake or sweet, and in January of 2012, realized that people were starving, since we meet at 7 p.m., right after work. We now gather at 6:30, I make red lentil soup, and everyone brings whatever they want. We nosh for 30 minutes and start reading by 7. Doing this totally changed the timbre of the gatherings. People really relaxed and focused on the plays and sonnets. Sometimes we finish a play in one night; “Hamlet” took four meetings to complete. We are not Shakespeare scholars, and have a wide range of knowledge levels. One of the members several months ago looked up at all of us, smiled and said, “Oh My God: I am eating chocolate, drinking red wine and reading Shakespeare. On a Monday night. I am in heaven.”
What are you reading now? “Cymbeline”
What is your club’s favorite book? “Hamlet” ranks up there, “Romeo and Juliet” too. Most of us did not care much for “Coriolanus.”
What’s unique about your club? We have a shared love for Shakespeare and for reading out loud. Shakespeare is wonderful to read, but it’s meant to be heard. We have a wide array of people, and we learn from each other. While reading “Henry V” a couple years ago, we discovered that two of the women in our group are fluent in French, and they read the exchange between Katherine and her maid in French, after which we all applauded. Shakespeare can be intimidating to many people, but reading it out loud makes it accessible in a way that silent reading does not. I think any of our group would say that this process has greatly improved our ability to interpret and to appreciate Shakespeare.
Read more about this book club and comment on its current book, or tell us about your book club at newsobserver.com/trianglereads/.