Many of St. Petersburg’s arts institutions and organizations – just about all of them, in fact – will be acknowledging the Bard of Avon, in some fashion, during the month of February. It’s the inaugural St. Petersburg Celebration of the Arts, a multi-disciplinary series focusing – you guessed it – on the works of William Shakespeare.
Participants include the Florida Orchestra, St. Petersburg Opera Company, the Museum of Fine Arts, Spitfire Theater Improv, the St. Petersburg Shakespeare Festival, Palladium Chamber Players, freeFall Theatre, Tampa Bay Symphony, American Stage, the Dali, the James, Keep St. Pete Lit … the list goes on.
Devised and curated by longtime arts patrons and supporters Gordon and Michele Gilbert, the umbrella program includes music, drama, readings, lectures, museum events and more. It’s designed in such a way that there’s no overlap – no two events occur on the same day.
See the entire schedule here.
Dr. Gordon Gilbert, a semi-retired neurologist, and his wife Michele, a retired professor of art history, began to brainstorm the all-inclusive event two years ago. “Both Michele and I enjoy Shakespeare a lot,” Gordon explains. “We tend to go to anything Shakespearean that’s occurring in our area, and elsewhere. And it seemed like a good unifying principle – a theme that there’s music for, certainly drama … Shakespeare is easy.
“Because if you’re a museum, you can take a painting that you have that has the title ‘Springtime.’ You can Google ‘springtime and Shakespeare’ and you’ll turn up a sonnet or an excerpt from a play! For uniting different cultural groups, Shakespeare is easy as a theme.”
Michele Kidwell Gilbert taught Ancient and Renaissance art history at The New School for Social Research, New York University, and the College of New Rochelle, and is the founder and chair of the National Arts Club’s archaeology committee.
The pair wed four years ago. “It’s fun to work together,” she says. “We may have disagreements on certain things, but we hash them out.”
They both agreed that Shakespeare was the perfect theme for the Celebration’s first year. “I went online and did ‘Dali and Shakespeare,’” she says. “There was a lot. I then did a particular topic with Shakespeare, to try to tie Shakespeare into a musical or museum group. And again, on all topics there was a lot.” The ideas flowed.
Indeed, the schedule has been finalized, but the Gilberts are still coming up with new ideas. For example: “I always loved that television show Meeting of Minds,” Michele enthuses.
(Hosted by Steve Allen, the PBS program brought together historical figures – portrayed by actors – together for robust discussion.)
“Next year, I would love to do a Meeting of Minds! It would have been fun to do it this year – we could have gotten MacBeth himself, maybe Hamlet discussing power … and other figures from Shakespeare. That would fit in beautifully with what we’re trying to accomplish.”
There’s already a theme in place for 2020: Tolerance, Civility, Acceptance.
“We have the time,” says Dr. Gilbert. “We’re both very involved in a lot of things. We’re on the boards of a number of these organizations. It is enjoyable for us to be involved in this sort of event that we can regard as really unifying. Terrific for the city of St. Petersburg, known as the City of the Arts. And I think there are going to be many advantages for everybody along the way with this.”