All-Nighter With The Bard Gives Students The 'Shakes'

The clock is ticking at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. At a small Tudor-esque cottage on the campus of the women's college, students are attempting to read all the works of Shakespeare in 24 hours. They're calling the reading marathon "24 Shakes." Host Scott Simon speaks with Ashley Gramolini, president of the Wellesley College Shakespeare Society.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

The clock is ticking at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. At a small Tudor-esque cottage on the campus of the women's college, students are attempting to read all the words of Shakespeare in 24 hours. They call this reading marathon 24 Shakes. Thats 14,000 lines, 154 sonnets, 39 plays. They started at 3:00 p.m. yesterday and its still going on.

Ashley Gramolini is president of the Shakespeare Society at Wellesley.

Ms. Gramolini, thanks for being with us.

Ms. ASHLEY GRAMOLINI (President, Shakespeare Society): Actually, thanks for listening to us.

SIMON: So and how far have you gotten in to the works of the Bard?

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Im going to consult my vice president here. How far have we got?

Unidentified Woman #1: We only have nine more plays to go.

SIMON: Only nine more plays to go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Weve had a few of us who have not slept at all. Weve been going through the entire wee hours of the morning.

SIMON: What about - have you gotten to "Julius Caesar"?

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Thats actually what were doing right now in the living room. Would you like to hear a bit of it?

SIMON: Yes, please.

Ms. GRAMOLINI: All right. Were going into the living room where J.C. - we did "Julius Caesar" a few years ago. But here we go.

Unidentified Woman #2: I grant that I am a woman, but withal a woman well reputed, Cato's daughter. Think you I am no stronger than my sex

Ms. GRAMOLINI: This is the pretty popular one. We have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight girls reading "Julius Caesar" right now, and so all extremely tired, but its a really, really sweet scene.

SIMON: And - and, okay, so may I ask, when Julius Caesar gets into the Senate, I mean we know what happens, but I mean, will seven surround one of them and, you know, will she fall down on the ground and et tu Brute?

Ms. GRAMOLINI: I think thats going to be our plan, yes. I think were really looking forward to the stabbing scene.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Although were tied and wrapped in blankets, we did pull a few of our stage knives from upstairs so theyre are on this floor and theyre ready to go.

SIMON: Oh, anybody dressing up in togas or anything?

Ms. GRAMOLINI: We dont have anyone dressing up in togas. Actually, though, we did dress up for "Romeo and Juliet," because they really wanted to dress up and do the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene and Mercutios death in the scene

SIMON: Oh.

Ms. GRAMOLINI: ...(unintelligible) dressed up to give us a little more publicity.

SIMON: I played Mercutio.

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Did you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes in a shape no larger than an agate-stone on the fore-finger of an alderman, which the angry Mab doth prick, he seemed to bleed...

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Thats amazing.

SIMON: Thank you very much, nice of you to say that. The best death scene Ive played so far.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GRAMOLINI: I think thats one of the best death scenes.

SIMON: When my own comes I won't be nearly as witty as I was when I was Mercutio, let me put it...

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Oh no, Im sure youll be witty just on your way out as youre going in.

SIMON: Thank you, thank you very much, Ms. Gramolini. Pleasure to talk to you and good luck to everyone. Okay? Give them our best.

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Thanks so much - I want everyone to come say hi to you. Guys, say hi to Scott Simon.

Unidentified Women: Hi.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Thanks again so much.

SIMON: Oh, our pleasure, have a good time.

Ms. GRAMOLINI: Bye, you too.

SIMON: Ashley Gramolini, president of the Shakespeare Society at Wellesley. This is NPR News.

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