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Eagle Archive: A New Windsor summer made glorious by William Shakespeare

Eagle Archive

By Kevin Dayhoff, kevindayhoff@gmail.com

1:41 AM EDT, August 26, 2012

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On the morning of Aug. 22, in 1485, a defining moment in English history took place with the death of Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth Field.

This of course, leads us directly to the summer of 1938 at Blue Ridge College in New Windsor.

Well, sorta-kinda.

I'll explain … after I wax poetic with William Shakespeare: "Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this son of York…"

Many will recognize that these lines appear in Shakespeare's "Richard III" — the last play of a study in history of the Wars of Roses by Shakespeare, which includes, "Henry VI, parts 1, 2 and 3," "Richard II" and "Henry V." Of all of Shakespeare's work, "Richard III" remains my favorite (followed by, on any given day, "As You Like It").

Throughout the history of our own beloved realm — Carroll County — folks have enjoyed days "made glorious summer by" arts and cultural programs such as church choirs, theater groups and band concerts.

Years ago, outdoor theater also made glorious summer, according to local historian, and now State Senator, Joe Getty, in a piece he wrote for the Historical Society of Carroll County.

Getty wrote that in 1938, "the words of Shakespeare resounded among the trees in front of the Brethren Center in New Windsor. (A) Shakespearean festival was sponsored by the drama department of Blue Ridge College …"

Blue Ridge, by the way, folded in 1944, and the campus is now used by the Brethren World Service Center.

"This was no small-town production," wrote Getty, "but was planned with panache and great vision." The now defunct newspaper, the Democratic Advocate, proclaimed that "it is expected that New Windsor may become an American Salzburg. Special trains and buses are expected to be operated from Washington and Baltimore."

The reason for all of this acclaim, according to Getty, "was the reputation of the summer theater's director. The college had attracted an actress and director with international stature - Madame Barry-Orlova.

"Excitement was also created in the town of New Windsor because actors from throughout the United States came to the campus to participate in the summer festival …. The theater group, known as the Blue Ridge Players, used many local residents.

Many people who were children in New Windsor at that time can recall participating as dancers and fairies in the forest scenes."

"The 10-week season of theater productions played to rave reviews," reports Getty. "The repertoire … included a number of Shakespeare's plays and a touch of Bollywood — also in production were a tragic East Indian pageant Savitri (in which it was shown that a woman's love endureth e'en beyond the doom of death)."

To this day, Carroll Countians "endureth e'en" beyond the cold and discontent of winter and are made glorious summer by band concerts and local theater.

When he is not composing iambic pentameter and quoting Shakespeare, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.