This magic moment

Author: Jason Kelly ’95, video by Ryan Blaske

The Robinson Shakespeare Company was invited to perform an impromptu scene from their upcoming production of Cymbeline at the Shakespeare Birthplace.

Editor’s note: The 6th through 12th graders of the Robinson Shakespeare Company, part of Notre Dame’s Robinson Community Learning Center, have been invited to perform Cymbeline this summer in Stratford-upon-Avon and present a workshop at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. Notre Dame Magazine reports on their journey here.


British actors James Tanton and Chris Dunford perform for tourists passing through the garden behind the historic home in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, where William Shakespeare was born in 1564. They take requests.


Visitors shout out favorites and the actors deliver. On Thursday, Tanton and Dunford offered extended selections from Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Macbeth, among many others, to the amazement of the young Robinson Shakespeare Company actors who arrived in England earlier in the day.


“That’s goals,” ensemble member Precious Parker said, adding with a laugh, “I have one monologue.”


Since the Robinson group came to town to perform Cymbeline on Sunday at Shakespeare’s New Place, they naturally wanted to hear something from their play.


Cymbeline?” Tanton said. “Unfortunately, that’s where I’m caught out.”


It’s not one of Shakespeare’s more familiar works, but the Robinson Shakespeare Company players know it. To their surprise, they were asked to perform a scene of their own, right there, right then.


As if to confirm that this impromptu performance was meant to be, Tanton even had a guitar at hand for cast member Joe Russo to use to set the mood.


For a couple dozen tourists from different corners of the earth, some with their phones trained on them, the ensemble ran through their first scene, introducing the context and characters of Cymbeline in the shadow of Shakespeare’s birthplace.        


They’ve performed for bigger audiences, heard more applause and definitely been less jet-lagged on stage, but the setting and circumstances left director Christy Burgess clutching her heart with pride.


This wasn’t part of their itinerary. The moment just appeared out of nowhere, like magic.

Jason Kelly is an associate editor of this magazine. Email him at