This year, the Woodland Shakespeare Club will look at fiction and nonfiction as it studies “The California Dream: A True Myth.”
The club, one of the oldest in California, with members from throughout Yolo County, meets monthly from October through April. The president this year is Maryellen Mackenzie.
Mackenzie has been a member of the Shakespeare Club since 2004 and will remain president for two terms. A Woodland resident, she is a retired geologist with 38 years of service with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The club’s 128th year of study begins with two pre-season recommendations that help explain the theme: “California: A History” by Kevin Starr and “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare.
The seven books on this year’s reading list ask club members to pause and reflect on what it means to work, play and live in this state of California.
The reading list was developed by Program Committee chair Carol Lapsley with members Karen Lafferty and Jean Shipley and includes: “My First Summer in the Sierra” by John Muir; “Ramona” by Helen Hunt Jackson; “The Valley of the Moon” by Jack London; “The Geography of Home: California’s Poetry of Place” by Christopher Buckley and Gary Young; “The Day of the Locust” by Nathanael West; “40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering” by Alice Waters; and “Gidget” by Fredrick Kohner.
It has been proposed that California entered history as a myth. In 1510, a Spanish writer issued a romantic prose; The Deeds of Esplandian. In this work, California was “an island on the right hand of the Indies … abounding in gold and precious stones.”
This concept of California remained popular for the rest of the 16th century, which coincided with Shakespeare’s time. The Spaniards held the idea of California as a true myth and thus in 1538 Cortes sailing west from Mexico across an unnamed sea landed on what he believed to be an island. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish began to call the place after the mythic island of California, half believing and more than fully hoping they would find there the gold and precious stones described in 1510.