Talk Like Shakespeare Day

April 23, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"Chicago is recognized as the home not only of 'Da Bulls and 'Da Bears, but also 'Da Bard," said Mayor Richard Daley in his formal city proclamation earlier in the week.

The event started last year in Chicago and spread across the country and beyond through national and international press coverage. The official website,, has gotten more than one million hits.

Friday also marks the Bard's 446th birthday. Five Shakespeare look-alikes from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater hit the Loop, entertaining and engaging people on the sidewalk, outside the Art Institute, and in Daley Plaza.

"We looked out over all Chicago and proclaimed, 'It's Shakespeare day!'" said Shakespeare impersonator Nick Demers.

"And tis my birthday 446," he added, channeling the famed, long-deceased playwright.

"Our Shakespeares today are five fabulous Chicago actors who have been costumed and are traveling throughout the city embodying Shakespeare in word and form," said Greta Honold, an Arts Leadership Fellow at the Shakespeare Theater.

Mayor Daley urged citizens in his proclamation to "let boldness be thy friend and celebrate Shakespeare by vocal acclamation of his words."

The day gives Chicagoans a chance to use language that was probably never legitimately used in the city - except on stage, of course. And today - all the city is a stage.

"Tis a great idea," said Dan Brennan, a Chicago resident.

One lucky Chicagoan who parlays with a Shakespeare look-alike will earn more than just raised eyebrows and sidelong glances. Someone who plays along will win two round-trip flights to London courtesy of American Airlines and tickets to a performance at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

While in jolly old England, they might also discover that the imitation does not quite match the reality, although look-alike Demers had an explanation for that.

"Met some fellow Englishmen who told me I had a particularly bad accent, and we played a little bit of word sparring, and I said of course your accent is better than mine - you've been home and I've been here!" he said.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater will also host Chicago Public School students and teachers for birthday cake for the Bard, and will showcase an exclusive Shakespearean hip-hop performance by Flocabulary artists Blake Harrison, Mervin Jenkins (a.k.a. Spectac) and Alex Rappaport. The three use rhyme and rhythm to connect Shakespeare to students. Teachers and students will then honor the 16th Century playwright with their own 21st Century rap - in his unique style, of course.

"I think [the day] is both fun and a really good idea," said Julie Hunt, a UIC literature student. "I think people should be reminded of the importance of literature."

A crowd of people celebrating Greek Independence Day in Daley Plaza did not seem to mind sharing center stage with the five Williams, although they may have been slightly jealous of their garb.

"Well, I mean, it seems just as educational as us dressing as the Greeks, because I don't think many people were aware of that," said Rachel Martin, one of the Greek Independence Day revelers. "I think it's great to help educate people in an interesting way instead of having them look it up."

According to one of the five lookalikes, Chicago residents feeling London calling might just be willing to trade their kingdom for a piece of paper.

"If anyone in this city can find one of us Wills wandering the streets and they can speak to us a line of Shakespeare, they will receive one of these parchments which will tell them how they may go about winning a trip to London to watch a play at the Globe Theater," said impersonator David Wilhelm.

Lest tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creep on in a petty pace from day to day, offers Shakespeare fun and memories from the Bard's birthday for the other 364 days of the year.

Visitors to the website can contribute stories, photos, videos and quotes. Those who are less versed in Shakespeare or whose iambic pentameter is a little rusty can also learn how to talk like Shakespeare on the site.

Friday evening at midnight, however, parting will be sweet sorrow, and Chicagoans will say good night to the "thee"'s tripping off of their tongues until 2011.

(Ben Stewart contributed to this report)

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