Some years back I spent a grand Fourth of July sitting in a long line for free Shakespeare in the Park in NYC. To get into the play, you had to line up early and wait until 6 or so when the Delacorte Theater handed out evening's allotment of tickets. I forgot what we saw, though I remember loving the play; maybe it was "Much Ado About Nothing" or "Twelfth Night." Several people in our group had brought along bags of fresh cherries, which arrive in plenitude in the city's Korean delis around the first of July. We snacked, shot the breeze, and let time drift by until the ticket guy appeared. I'll always associate the happy feeling of friends, Shakespeare, and cherries with the Fourth.
On the Fourth this year I finished reading the history play "Henry IV, Part 1," and also stumbled across Oxford's Emma Smith's free online lecture about Falstaff, the play's most interesting character. Smith even compares the "fat-kidneyed rascal" to Homer Simpson! Both are funny because they're countercultural, she says. The talk is part of the "Approaching Shakespeare" series of podcasts, which can be found here.
Emma Smith figures in Me and Shakespeare: Adventures with the Bard, by Herman Gollob, a Texas-born book editor (Doubleday, 2002). Seeing Ralph Fiennes in a Broadway production of "Hamlet" changed Gollob's life, and he began to study Shakepeare on his own. Part memoir and part guide, Gollob's book is full of good recommendations (particularly for books and films) for people who want to deepen their appreciation of the Bard. Gollob's adventures include a three-week summer course at Oxford taught by...Emma Smith.
A local company is performing an outdoor "Romeo and Juliet" soon, and that will probably be my next brush with Shakespeare. The Washington State cherries have hit the stores, too.
Shakespeare in the Park (now celebrating its fiftieth anniversary)
"Shakespeare After All: The Later Plays," with Marjorie Garber. A free video series from the Harvard Extension School. I haven't seen this yet, but it sounds great.
Shakepeare on the Sound. The Bard in the 'burbs.