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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Shakespeare readers have met over 100 times

  • Since September of 2010 a group of Shakespeare enthusiasts has been meeting at libraries to read the bard of Avon's plays. In February of this year they met for their 100th time.
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  • Since September of 2010 a group of Shakespeare enthusiasts has been meeting at libraries to read the bard of Avon’s plays. In February of this year they met for their 100th time.
    The 16th Century playwright’s work is as fresh to these people today as in the 1500s and early 1600s when the plays were first written and performed.
    Ryan Nelson is the founder of the group, titled simply The Shakespeare Reading Group.
    “I am just the guy who owns the books,” said Nelson in his typically self-deprecating manner Tuesday at the Harrisburg District Library.
    Nelson has a master’s degree in English Literature from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He taught part-time at Rend Lake College from 2004 to 2008. From that teaching job he had some Shakespeare play books and advertised on Facebook for interested parties and started the group in at McCoy Library in McLeansboro in 2010 with four members beside himself.
    The group has grown and attendance averages seven to 10 for each monthly meeting. The group alternates second Tuesdays monthly between the Harrisburg Library and the Eldorado Library. There are irregular meetings at Dahlgren, Grayville and Carterville.
    Tuesday at Harrisburg District Library they read “Anthony and Cleopatra.”
    Ryan asked the group before the reading began, “Who can sum up the military situation?”
    Bert Dodson of Dahlgren jumped in with a succinct assessment of the competing forces.
    Dodson identified her own reasons for attending the reading group. She enjoys the social interaction.
    “I am a stay-at-home caretaker who needs adult conversation from time to time,” she said.
    Kathy Patton, a mother whose 16 year old daughter also attends, said, “I come to read because it is fun.”
    Her daughter Alexsia said — somewhat tongue in cheek, “I am just a bright young lady who wants to broaden her mind.”
    Rosaland Lane said, “I wanted to learn about Shakespeare and it’s just easier to do in a group setting.”
    Lane’s daughter, Ramona Tucci, 18, said she was curious and wanted to learn about Shakespeare.
    “I am a history buff,” she said.
    With seven in attendance the group tackled “Anthony and Cleopatra” with vigor. Nelson said “It takes an average of two meetings to read an entire play. Some are shorter but most take two sessions.”
    Asked about “Macbeth” Nelson said, “It is actually quite short. The theory is that what we have now is a short version of an original that was longer.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The group is sponsoring the appearance of The Stone Soup Shakespeare Group from Carbondale at the Harrisburg District Library 6 p.m. Monday May 5 at the Harrisburg District Library. The sponsorship came from donations from each of the Shakespeare Reading Groups. The group will be performing the comedy, “As You Like It.”
    “We want the community to experience an entire play acted by experienced actors,” said Nelson.
    The next meeting is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 13 at Eldorado Memorial Library where the group is reading “The Tempest.”

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