Shakespeare Reading A World Record

Jessica Wright reading Shakespeare's "The Tempest"
Jessica Wright reading Shakespeare's "The Tempest"

Columbus’ Actors’ Theatre celebrates its 25th season by completing a marathon reading of the works of William Shakespeare. The more than 100-hour performance, which began at noon on Wednesday, is one for the record books: the Guinness Book of World Records.

Members of the public were allowed to come and go during the record-setting attempt. But the six readers were required to stay inside the German Village’s Meeting Haus the entire time, and were only allowed an hour’s sleep after each on-stage stint. One of the readers is the company’s artistic director John Kuhn.

“We’re not getting the right sleep, we’re not eating right, all of our normal bodily routines are just thrown out the window,” John Kuhn says. “So in that sense, it’s been stressful, and it takes a lot of concentration and focus just to read, just to work your way through the language.”

The recording-setting read was the idea of the Theatre’s executive director Frank Barnhart who wanted to mark a quarter of a century of free Shakespeare in the park and the substantial contribution made to the arts in Central Ohio. Barnhart says Guinness’s rules also required substantial sacrifice from the participants.

“I think from Guinness’s point of view that with any of these types of records if they were easy everybody would do them,” Barnhart says. “So there has to be a certain amount of endurance and hardship.”

Artistic Director Kuhn described the event as an in-depth experience in language. Another reader, Mark Passerello described the communal living arrangements this way:

“It’s barracks living in there,” Passerello says. “Six of us are altogether and anybody who’s been on a campout or Boy Scout or Girl Scout outing, knows that it’s tough to share a room with other people.”

Jessica Wright was on-stage reading from The Tempest Sunday afternoon on the day considered the Bard’s birthday, April 23rd, 1564. As she continued, Frank Barnhart, with stopwatch in hand, gave the final countdown at 4:34 p.m.

The readings continued into the evening in the hope that the record set in Columbus would be harder to break. Actors’ Theater will now submit records kept by witnesses and videotaped documentation to Guinness for certification.

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