The Upcoming Shakespeare Festival

Four years ago, I began discussing the idea for a Shakespeare festival with Katalin Cserfalvi at the Ferenc Verseghy Public Library in Szolnok. We had already held two Shakespeare performances, in 2018 and 2019, and wanted to plan an event filled with student performances, workshops, lectures, and more. Twice we had to postpone our plans because of Covid, but the first Shakespeare festival, a joint project of the Varga Katalin Gimnázium and the Verseghy library, took place last year on April 22. It was a delightful day of Shakespeare scenes, sonnets, songs, lectures, an art contest, a workshop, and a pogácsa (traditional Hungarian biscuit) for all.

This year, on April 24, student groups are coming from Sárospatak, Tiszafüred, Karcag, and Szolnok; József Rigó, director of Szolnok’s Híd Szinpad, will bring several scenes and lead a workshop; the afternoon workshops will be elective—there will be four to choose from, including my students’ Renaissance Dance workshop; and much more will happen. Amazingly, the festival falls on the heels of the publication of two Poket Shakespeare books: a volume of Romeo and Juliet, in the translation of Dezső Mészőly, and Hamlet, in the translation of János Arany. These will figure in the day somehow (but just how, I can’t reveal yet).

There are so many details to keep in mind and put together. For my students’ performance and workshop, we still need every bit of rehearsal time we can get, but I am confident that they will pull it together. For the rest, I am mostly concerned about giving the student groups dressing rooms, water, a warm welcome—and making sure all their technical needs are met. My school has been very supportive, and the library staff have been working on this event since the fall.

One of the most fun parts of this year’s preparation involves the cello; I am playing in the Varga Diákszínpad (Varga drama club) adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, along with a student flutist. I wrote two of the three melodies that we will be playing; the third is a well-known pavane. My bow gave out just last week, so I had to rush to Budapest to buy a second bow, which I will use while my main one is being rehaired. (I will probably use it at the festival itself; it isn’t quite as good as my main bow, but it works just fine.) The Varga drama club, directed by my colleague Zsuzsanna Kovácsné Boross, was one of the original reasons that I thought I’d like to teach at Varga. It is truly one of the school’s treasures, and it has changed students’ lives over the years. I am honored to be part of their performance this time.

Why Shakespeare, and why a Shakespeare festival? I think the festival itself answers this question. There is so much to be found in Shakespeare—language, poetry, confluences of the arts, insights into human nature, rich characters, translations—and so many ways of considering and performing his work, that a festival of this sort makes infinite room (even in a finite day) for learning, acting, and fun. I hope this will continue as an annual tradition, but first, let’s pull this off well!

I have to rush now, so here is Szolnok TV’s piece on last year’s festival.

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  1. Andrew James Chandler

     /  April 18, 2023

    Sounds great! Well done!

  1. Shakespeare in the Air | Take Away the Takeaway

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  • “Setting Poetry to Music,” 2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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