Josh Shaffer

Bard’s belongings bound for big bidders

A bronze Statue of William Shakespeare by Jon Hair entitled "Shakespeare Standing", one of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival items up for auction. The statue stands 65 inches tall and depicts Shakespeare standing on the planks of a stage floor. It is signed by the artist and includes the seal of the U.S. Olympic Committee for which he was the official sculptor.
A bronze Statue of William Shakespeare by Jon Hair entitled "Shakespeare Standing", one of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival items up for auction. The statue stands 65 inches tall and depicts Shakespeare standing on the planks of a stage floor. It is signed by the artist and includes the seal of the U.S. Olympic Committee for which he was the official sculptor.

For 37 years, the N.C. Shakespeare Festival brought Castle Elsinore to flyspeck towns, paraded kings and jesters across boondock stages and introduced fidgety middle-schoolers to Bottom the Weaver – donkey ears and all.

But now, its budget cut, its coffers drained, its bankruptcy papers filed, this band of heartsick thespians offers all its theatrical goods for auction: More than 2,500 items ranging from the snow-machine to King Lear’s purple robe.

Until noon on Aug. 12, bidders can lay claim to a pair of cavalier breeches fitting for Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a Roman breastplate suitable for stabbing Julius Caesar or a Scottish gentleman’s costume that might once have been splashed with Macbeth’s fake blood.

Up for grabs go a pair of tunics from “The Tempest” – a purple and gold number worn by Antonio and the red-green job sported by Trinculo.

The lucky contender in these online-only auctions might collect enough swords and shields to take Dunsinane Hill, along with the foam tombstones to bury the slain.

The best news:

With the exception of one item – a bronze statue of the Bard himself – bidding starts at a penny.

“We’re getting hits from all over the world,” said Will Lilly, president of Iron Horse Auction Co. “We’ve got 58,000 catalog views so far. Anytime we have something unique, it always draws a crowd.”

The High Point-based theater, affectionately nicknamed NC Shakes, opened in 1977 with “Henry V” and “Taming of the Shrew,” along with its annual “Christmas Carol” production. While we’re on the subject, this auction offers aspiring Dickens players a shot at Scrooge & Marley’s sign, the angel-of-death suit worn by the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come and an authentic sleigh.

For decades it held teen theater camps and toured the state’s smallest stages: “Hotdogs and Hamlet” in Stokes County, Shakespeare Slam in Jamestown.

Then in 2011, the theater company lost $200,000 in state funding, trimmed operations two years later and walked off stage for good in 2014. After its chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in April, a federal court ordered all property sold “as is, where is.” If nobody beats High Point University’s $25,000 reserve bid on the statue, the bronze Bard heads to its hallowed grounds.

We’ve got a few days to go before the auction closes. Still, just flipping through, I notice that the bidding on an English prince’s costume stood at 25 cents. A collection of 10 hoop skirts was holding at a dime.

At this point, unless the big-spenders are waiting until for the final bell, you slap together a passable Othello for a few bucks. Pick up a sword and a shield and go charging up Dunsinane Hill. Grab some regency breeches and a cape and woo Ophelia. Bring a life jacket while you’re at it.

Those are Shakespeare jokes, people. You can still read him for free.

jshaffer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4818

Props, costumes and other items belonging to the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival are being auctioned online until noon, Aug 12. They can be viewed at ironhorseauction.com. The property is located in High Point, but the bidding is all conducted via the Internet.

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