Library Hosts Summer Shakespeare Reading Series


Most people are familiar with a Shakespeare play or two, but few have actually sat down to read one in detail. Fewer have had the opportunity to read aloud with others who are theatrically inclined, which is where the real appreciation cements itself.

Norman Parker.

Palisades Branch Library is offering a free Shakespeare reading program open to all ages, led by Palisadian actor Norman Parker. His TV credits include “Family Ties” and “Star Trek.”

For many years Parker led the Venture West Theatre Company, where nearly all of Shakespeare’s plays were read and discussed. He’s a Shakespeare enthusiast through and through.

The first session in this program took place on Friday, July 6, with an afternoon reading of “King Lear.” Parker began with an open conversation about “King Lear”—had people seen the play before, which version, had they acted in it and so on.

Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of King Lear in Michael Elliot’s TV movie was mentioned as a definite highlight and must-see performance, along with Ian McKellan in Trevor Nunn’s TV adaptation. (As we speak, McKellan is starring as Lear again in a West End theater production.)

What immediately became apparent at this reading was Parker’s ease with the material. Shakespeare’s plays can seem inaccessible or dated to some, however Parker’s light approach made everyone feel welcome and actively engaged.

Instead of simply moderating, he collaborated with each participant and encouraged them to participate as much or as little as they liked. A drama student from Palisades Charter High School took the role of “Edgar.”

Although each actor held different versions of the play, the reading never lost momentum.

A second reading of “King Lear” will take place Friday, July 13, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the library. Additional readings of Shakespeare’s plays will be scheduled for Aug. 3 and 10.