Shakespeare Organizations during COVID-19: Delaware Shakespeare

In the coming weeks, we will be looking at how recent social distancing has impacted and continues to affect Shakespeare organizations around the world. We hope to highlight both how difficult this season is for many groups and the creative ways they’re overcoming those difficulties. Read below for more from Deleware Shakespeare staff including former General Manager JulieAnne Cross, Producing Artistic Director David Stradley, and Marketing and Business Associate Alexi Harber.

Delaware Shakespeare logo

First, for anyone who might be unfamiliar, tell us a little bit about the mission of your organization.

Our mission: Inspired by Shakespeare’s creative vision and the broad societal mix of audiences of his era, Delaware Shakespeare brings our community together for vibrant theatre and learning experiences.

Del Shakes refers to our vision much more frequently than our mission, so I thought I’d share: We envision a Delaware where people from all walks of life celebrate and explore their shared humanity through the lens of Shakespearean works.

COVID-19 has impacted everyone, but could you tell us a bit about the specific difficulties the Delaware Shakespeare has faced during this time?

The specific difficulties are that we are not able to gather in person to share Shakespeare in theatrical experiences. The best way members of SAA could support would be to help disseminate online programming or be available to participate in online programming.

image of a webpage with the heading “Sonnet of the Day: Getting through our Socially Distant Times with a Little Iambic Pentameter”; below are photos of three people. On the right are bullet points saying “Enjoy daily sonnets”, “Support our actors”, “Support Del Shakes”, and “Buy a ‘ticket’”. Below are the words “Click for more info on tickets” and social media links to and

What are some of the resources you have online that you would like everyone to know about?

I’d love to share with you how our {Mostly} Virtual Festival went. Over the course of three weeks (July 17- August 2) we hosted nine virtual programs and one in-person program called the “Soliloquy Stroll.” These dates were the dates where we would have been presenting our Summer Festival production of The Tempest. To remind our audiences of great summers of the past while looking forward to hopefully resuming the Festival in 2021, we shared a wide-array of Shakespeare-related digital programming, most of which was free, on our Facebook and Youtube pages. On Facebook alone, our digital programs have received over 3,800 views so far. Throughout the {Mostly} Virtual Festival, we also continued our online Sonnet of the Day Project which has received over 37,000 views to date. Our in-person program, the “Soliloquy Stroll”, where patrons encounter actors performing Shakespearean soliloquies around Rockwood Park, sold out in just half a day. We ended up adding a performance date of this program, which will be this Saturday, August 8th. Tickets for that event have also sold out, but an online video recording of the event can still be purchased here.  All of our free digital programming from the Festival is available to view anytime on our Facebook and Youtube pages as well as on our website here. We’ve received lots of positive feedback from our patrons who expressed gratitude and excitement over our {Mostly} Virtual Festival after the disappointing news of our postponement of The Tempest. We began a Sonnet of the Day project on April 3, offering an artist-delivered video every weekday. We hope life can resume some normalcy soon so we don’t have to go through all 154 sonnets! A planned March “salon” called “A Play I Love: Coriolanus” was converted to an online salon, and its success has driven us to plan more, including one that took place in April. Our Shakespeare Day celebration was also converted to a video, which combined some pre-recorded content with live readings.

This crisis has required a great shift for many organizations. Are there any lessons or changes you will implement after we have weathered COVID-19?

We have found some patrons do enjoy engaging via online programming, and that they are low-cost ways to keep audience engagement during times that we are unable to perform. We will likely keep this programming in some form once we are able to gather in person again.

Is there a certain poem or play that has brought you comfort during this time? If so, could you share?

There are words in all of Shakespeare’s plays that are of comfort. When compiling the texts for Shakespeare Day (dialogue from all thirty-eight Shakespeare Plays), we found so many quotes that encouraged and inspired. And it was really wonderful to hear normal Delawareans speaking these lines, particularly by essential workers.