Clay Jenkinson’s first love was English Renaissance literature. He studied the work of Shakespeare, Donne, Marlowe, Jonson, Milton, and others as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Meanwhile, in his Chautauqua roles as Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt, he’s become one of America’s premier elocutionists. He has a great voice, a powerful memory, and a charismatic stage presence.
This 90-minute performance features recitation of great moments in Shakespeare, commentary, biographical details, discussions of the great Shakespeare themes, and a practical guide to overcoming “Shakespeare intimidation.” Witty, probing, and funny, Clay provides an evening of insight and laughter in his one-man program, an unforgettable tribute to the life and work of the greatest writer in the English language.
Reading Hamlet for the first time as a freshman in college changed the whole trajectory of my life. During my time at Oxford I saw 34 of the 37 Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet nine times. Although I somehow slipped through the back door and became an amateur historian, my great love has always been Elizabethan and Jacobean literature. This program gives me the opportunity to explore Shakespeare’s genius at the prime of my life as a public humanities scholar.
About Clay Jenkinson
All of Clay’s degrees are in English Renaissance literature. He studied 17th-century literature at the University of Minnesota; studied Renaissance literature at Oxford, where he was a Rhodes and Danforth Scholar. Clay wrote a 743-page dissertation about John Donne’s sermons. His first great loves were Shakespeare, especially Jacobean Shakespeare, Milton, and John Donne. Clay had a conversion experience in a freshman Introduction to Drama class at Vanderbilt University. Most recently Clay has served as the Distinguished Scholar of the Humanities at Bismarck State College. He is also the director of the Erasmus Project, a consulting initiative to reinvigorate the humanities in higher education.
Clay’s Shakespeare Resume
- Clay received First Class Honours at Oxford University where he read English literature.
- Clay wrote a 743-page treatise on the sermons of John Donne (Shakespeare’s contemporary) at Hertford College, Oxford.
- Clay has lectured around the country on film adaptations of Shakespeare.
- Clay has taught semester-long university courses on Shakespeare on half a dozen occasions.
- In January 2018, Clay will be conducting a humanities retreat on Shakespeare at a historic lodge west of Missoula, Montana, in the Bitterroot Mountains.
- Clay spends six weeks per year in Rome, where he explores the landscapes of Shakespeare’s Roman plays: Antony & Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus.
- Clay lectured in 2016 at the State Historical Society of North Dakota on the First Folio, during its tour of the museums in the United States.
All Clay needs are good microphones (two), a thin but sturdy podium, modest lighting, a stool, and an open stage.
The program has one 15-minute intermission.
Clay appears in the first act in 21st-century lecture clothes, in the second act dressed in the manner of Hamlet: cape, bodkin, ruffled shirt, doublet, hose.
The show can be tailored to the interests of different audiences: educators, poets, lovers, lawyers, politicians, colleges, and the general public.
Occasionally and where appropriate, Clay likes to work with one or two local actors for two brief segments in his program.
In some venues, Clay does a Q&A session in which audience members can suggest plays and scenes to discuss.
At the Same Time
Clay likes to conduct Shakespeare retreats for teachers, professors, students (K-12 or university), and the general public. These can be half a day, daylong, or two-day programs.