“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women are merely players,” William Shakespeare reflected in “As You Like It” and on April 22, Marblehead High School teacher Bryan Butters and his wife, Julie, transformed Swampscott Library into a stage to salute the bard’s 459th birthday.
The program kicked off with a lively and engaging talk delivered by Julie Butters, an actor, writer and authority on Shakespeare who co-chaired Harvard University’s Hyperion Shakespeare Company. Butters, who also works as an aide at Swampscott Library, spoke about Shakespeare’s life and times and the forces that shaped him as a playwright and poet. Her talk explored the daring women, villains and themes of cross-dressing which appear in many of his comedies.
In his relatively brief life (he died at 52), Shakespeare penned 37 plays and 154 sonnets. He was a “clever adapter” who put a unique twist on familiar stories, Butters said. She also explained iambic pentameter, the rhythm that Shakespeare used in his plays.
Butters described how Shakespeare’s works are timeless and cross cultures and languages. There is even a Klingon version of “Hamlet” and Bryan Butters, a confessed Trekkie, delivered the famous line, “To be or not to be,” in guttural Klingon — much to the amusement of the audience.Bryan Butters also gave historical context about the Renaissance, roughly the 16th century, when Shakespeare lived.
When teaching 16th century European history, Butters said he always brings a little Shakespeare to his lessons. “It’s not hard to link his work to things that are happening today,” he added.
The Butters also performed snippets from ”Richard III,” ”Romeo and Juliet,” and ”As You Like It” as part of the birthday celebration.
The chemistry between the couple was palpable as they descended into the murderous and scheming world of “Richard III,” the passion and tenderness of “Romeo and Juliet” and the rollicking hijinks of “As You Like It.”
“Theater is one of the joys of my life and being able to share this with the person I love feels like a blessing,” said Julie when asked what it’s like to perform Shakespeare with her spouse.
“It was very exciting for me because Julie has lots of experience,” said Bryan. “She coached me along. It gave us another thing to share.”
The Butters have performed Shakespeare scenes together in virtual productions for Flock Theatre of New London, Connecticut, and Chill Bucket Productions of New York. They began acting together during the pandemic with a scene from ”The Tempest” for Chill Bucket in 2021.
The Swampscott program ended with the couple performing Puck’s affectionate farewell speech from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends.”
During the question and answer session following the presentation, Julie Butters explained that this was the “test drive” for the program and when an audience member asked if there was a chance they might perform Shakespeare locally this summer, she gave a wry wink suggesting that anything is possible.
To watch the Butters performing Shakespeare, visit youtu.be/lK9CpCaE3z8.