Davis Town and Gown Sonnet Walk
Saturday, walks run every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to noon, free
Walks begin at the Hattie Webber Museum, corner of 5th and C Street
Valentine’s Day seems to elicit the same sort of activities every year, managing to separate the singles from those in romantic relationships. This year, however, there’s something available for singles, couples and everyone in between.
In celebration for the holiday is the Davis Town and Gown Sonnet Walk, presented by the UC Davis department of theatre and dance and the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. It will feature performances of Shakespeare’s love poems during a stroll through the gardens.
The walks begin at the Hattie Webber Museum on the corner of 5th and C Streets, and will run every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to noon. The event is free, and reservations can be made at mondaviarts.org or 754-2787.
Theater professor Peter Lichtenfels is directing the sonnet walk as it debuts in Davis.
“It was started to bring a smile to people on St. Valentine’s Day,” Lichtenfels said.
Second-year Masters of Fine Arts candidate in acting Christine Samson is working as a vocal coach to the performers in the readings.
“My particular passion is Shakespeare and part of my MFA studies involves approaches to teaching Elizabethan spoken verse,” Samson said. “I was excited to coach participants with a range of experience, from non-actors to professional-level actors.“
The performers, or “sonneteers” as they are called, come from all different backgrounds, with a combination of community members, undergraduate and graduate actors. Regardless of their assorted backgrounds, all of the performers share one thing in common: A love for Shakespeare.
“The theatre and dance department is chock full of Shakespeare nerds, and we wanted to spread the love,” Samson said.
The decision to use all Shakespearean sonnets was derived from the original sonnet walk in London, which is connected to Shakespeare’s Globe monument and performed every year on his birthday on Apr. 23.
Though Samson has never participated in the Globe sonnet walk, she is excited to be able to create a new version in Davis.
“What is fun about the walk is applying the text of these sonnets in unexpected ways; in some cases finding double meanings. In a way, by focusing on Shakespeare’s sonnets, we are creating a structure for ourselves within which to find creative freedom of interpretation,” Samson said.
Lichtenfels is keeping the Shakespeare sonnets to be performed a surprise, saying only “they were chosen because they had to do with love.”
Jessica Kelly from the Mondavi Center expects a large turnout for the event. Despite the obvious emphasis on romance and love, the sonnet walk is ultimately designed to accommodate a communal group of people.
“It’s a community event,” Lichtenfels said. “Groups of people will stroll through the city and arboretum, and on the way people will be told some of Shakespeare’s love sonnets.”
Samson hopes that anyone who comes will “enjoy some of the greatest love poems ever written – performed with a twist.“
Lichtenfels expressed his hope that all people would enjoy the walk.
“Everyone is a lover,” he said.
For all those Shakespeare skeptics out there, Samson offered a bottom line: “It’s free, and if we’ve done it right, it’ll be fun.“
JULIA McCANDLESS can be reached at email@example.com.