Sunday, June 16, 2024

“Donkey Show” cast members perform in December at Oberon in Harvard Square. They’ll be in the square for free Saturday for combined Bookish Bash and Shakespeare’s Birthday Party festivities. (Photo: Ben Becker)

Harvard Square has two events going on Saturday, both with a literary bent: The Bookish Ball and a Shakespeare Birthday Bash.

The two will be celebrated throughout the square and include the efforts of at least 19 arts organizations, six bookstores and five restaurants and bakeries — with too much going on to effectively or efficiently summarize here. Forecasts of bad weather has canceled a parade from City Hall and some outside activities, but there’s plenty still going on in the square starting at noon (For a comprehensive list, check out the Harvard Square Business Association website):

Start in the square by picking up a Bookish Ball Passport at the association kiosk on Winthrop Street and check out the activities in bookstores and eateries. Among the possibilities:

Join in a public group reading of the “balcony scene” from “Romeo and Juliet,” which is part of an International Challenge in which different groups around the world will act out the same scene and upload each version to YouTube! Our event is a week prior to the birthday events in the UK, so we shall go first!

Performances will include works by “Donkey Show” cast members; arias from operas based on Shakespeare plays; monologues from “Romeo and Juliet” by ninth-graders from the Community Charter School of Cambridge and puppetry from the Central Square Theatre. Also, take part in a “two lies and a truth” content and a community sing of “Happy Birthday” to Shakespeare. (April 23 is considered the Bard’s 446th birthday.)

John Harvard’s Brew House will provide cake and ale while hosting a 75-minute Shakespeare Smackdown of nonstop scenes, story and song.

The Harvard Coop offers a full day of activities, including storytelling, crafts and a visit from a Peter Rabbit costume character; a scavenger hunt; and a traveling, hands-on Peabody Museum exhibit answering such things as how the ancient Maya created their intricate carvings or how the Inuit survived in the arctic. (There will also be an opportunity to taste chocolate made from an ancient Aztec recipe.)

There will also be a book discussion and signing with Susan Saint Sing, author of “The Eight: A Season in the Tradition of Harvard Crew,” and Longy School of Music conservatory students performing “Songs and Sonnets: Celebrating Shakespeare.”

Other readings are at the Harvard Book Store: Mark Oppenheimer discusses “Wisenheimer: A Childhood Subject to Debate,” the memoir of a hyperarticulate child who finds salvation in competitive oratory; and Christopher McDougall presents “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,” about the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, who practice techniques allowing them to run hundreds of miles without rest. “Their superhuman talent is matched by uncanny health and serenity, leaving the Tarahumara immune to the diseases and strife that plague modern existence,” McDougall says.

The Grolier Poetry Book Shop will have reading by owner Ifyeani Menkiti and works by Jean Dany Joachim, Cambridge’s poet populist.

Bookstores in the square will be stamping festival passports for entry into a prize contest, as well as providing their own entertainment, snacks and discounts on books — some limiting the discounts to material on Shakespeare or England, others on their general stock.