Shaking It Up: Wellesley College Tries to Read Complete Works of Shakespeare in 24-Hour Marathon

March 1, 2010

CONTACT: Galen Danskin; 860-912-5085
or Arlie Corday; 781-283-3321

WELLESLEY, Mass.—To be or not to be? That is the question: Can Wellesley College's Shakespeare Society read the complete works of the Bard in less than 24 hours?

Shakespeare House on the Wellesley College campus

On Friday, March 5, at 3 pm the students will launch "24 Shakes," an all day and night literary adventure, as they read aloud all of Shakespeare's works:14,000 lines, 154 sonnets and 39 plays. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the Shakespeare House, the small Tudor cottage by the Davis Museum and Cultural Center on Wellesley's campus.

"Come for a few hours to perform Romeo and Juliet," said Galen Danskin, vice president of the Shakespeare Society and a junior from Quaker Hill, Conn. "Leap into a fight scene. Stab Caesar. Kiss Cleopatra. Fight the French at the Battle of Agincourt. Dress like a man. Dress like a woman. Dress like a donkey but still win the Fairy Queen’s heart."

Aficionados like Danskin aim to bring the Bard to life with help from the college community and others.

"Be a player, be played or just play because we believe that the world’s a stage and we proudly claim the right to be on it," she said, adding that books, food, coffee and tea will be provided.

The group are also bringing Shakespeare into the social media world, inviting people to follow their exploit on Twitter ( or Facebook ( to get the latest news. During the 24 hours of reading, they will use Twitter to provide continuous updates on the status of the readings and reactions from the participants.

Shakespeare Society students in a performance of "Cymbeline" are (left to right) Ashley Gramolini, Christyl Watters and Meaghan Daley.

In addition to Danskin, members  of the Shakespeare Society participating in the event include Ashley Gramolini (president), Mandy Crescitelli (treasurer), Katherine Chen (secretary), Sarah Moazeni (director), Amanda Braun (student house manager), Amy Allport, Brittany Bjurstrom, Sarah Case, Rachel Cherny, Melissa Chu, KC Clements, Nicola Collett, Meaghan Daley, Amalina Dave, Hilary Gross, Emily Hall, Janine Hegarty, Sarah Heveron-Smith, Josephine Ho, Mackenzie Jackson, Maddy Kallman, Rachel Kaston, Callie Kovacs, Julia Murphy, Caroline Narby, Justine Portmann, Betsy Raymond, Melissa Sadowski, Elizabeth Stone, Sarah Vickery, Allison Walker-Elders, Christyl Watters and Elizabeth Wright.

The Wellesley Shakespeare Society has been active since 1877, making it the oldest continuous society at the college. Under the guidance of the founder of Wellesley College, Henry Fowle Durant, the original 12 members undertook a "systematic study of Shakespeare as a means of mental development."

The society's house is a neo-Elizabethan structure modeled after the birthplace of Shakespeare in Stratford, England, with elements from wife Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The society's 40 members hold meetings, put on a full Shakespeare production each semester, celebrate holidays (including Shakespeare's birthday), hold lectures and produce a series of short scenes ("Haunted House" in the fall and "House of Fools" in the spring) for the campus community.

Junior Katherine Chen of Beijing, China, is among those who will take part in the March 5 marathon reading. "What is not to love about '24 Hour Shakes'?" she asked. "You spend all day and all night getting swept up in the wonderful world of Shakespeare. The memories you'll make during those insane 24 hours will be with you always, not to mention that saying that you helped read the complete works of William Shakespeare in 23 hours makes for impressive dinner party conversation."

"24 Hour Shakes is such a great communal event," said Sarah Moazeni, a senior from El Cerrito, Calif. "It's so much fun to read plays you've read a million times as well as ones you've never read at 4 am with old and new friends."

A first-year student from Lisbon Falls, Maine, Allison Walker-Elders, is excited to experience the event firsthand.

"When I first heard about the entire society reading the whole Shakespeare canon together for one day, I was so inspired by the camaraderie behind the event," she said. "Plus, it sounds like fun. No pressure to be a perfect actress, just reading and playing with the words—what could be better?"

Melissa Chu, a senior from Wayland, Mass., is inspired by the prospect of "a group of people feverishly and dramatically reading Othello, Timon of Athens, Henry VI part II, Hamlet and Love's Labour's Lost aloud at 5 in the morning. With the combined efforts of the Society, caffeine, Thai food and Shakespeare, '24 Hour Shakes' probably always will be one of my favorite moments of all-time at Wellesley."

Danskin tried to explain what drives these 40 young women to devote so much time to celebrating Shakespeare.

"To ask why we should care about Shakespeare is the same as asking why we should care about anatomy, chemistry or history," she said. "Shakespeare has shaped and stretched creative minds for centuries. Yes, he may be another dead white guy, but to recognize and love his work, we don't need to be dead, white or a guy. We should celebrate and remember the narratives that echo into our lives today— and what better way to pay homage than to perform all of his works in an emotional, intensive, life-altering 24 hours?"

Directions and a map of Wellesley College are online at Free parking is available in the Davis Parking Facility.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries.