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For the Love of Shakespeare – A Teenager’s Story

Tara Stankovic is an inspirational young woman, with a love of Shakespeare.

Jim Ranahan
Tara and classmates
Tara and classmates (photo courtesy of Sanja Samardzich)

Tara Stankovic is an inspirational young woman, with a love of Shakespeare.  At just thirteen years old, Tara has mastered most of Shakespeare’s works, not just in her native Serbian but also in English, since discovering (in her own words) ‘the beauty of the Old English language’. In April 2016, Tara organised commemorations for Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary in her Belgrade school. To mark the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II (also in Spring 2016), Tara recited Shakespeare at the White Palace, Belgrade, the residence of HRH Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic. This turned the media spotlight on Tara and her love of Shakespeare, also ensuring that the 400th Anniversary celebrations were brought to a wide audience in Serbia.

Tara's winning entry
Tara's winning entry

As an ‘internet native’ Tara pays close attention to Shakespeare related activities in Stratford, not least at www.shakespeare.org.uk . In June 2016 she entered the SBT online competition ‘Design a Housewarming Card for New Place’. Tara won the 12-16 age category and her prize was a pass to visit the Shakespeare Family Homes in Stratford. Tara was thrilled to receive this prize, but just as welcome was the response of Serbian media. ‘Tara the Shakespeare lover’ was big news and she received a prize within Serbia to travel to London and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Tara and the Serbian Ambassador at the Serbian Embassy, London
Tara and the Serbian Ambassador at the Serbian Embassy, London (photo courtesy of Sanja Samardzich)

In May 2017, double prize winner Tara came to England and was welcomed by Dr. Ognjen Pribicevic, the Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia in London.  She then travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon, where Tara and her mother Sanja were treated to tours of the Shakespeare Family Homes and given an introduction to the treasures of the Trust’s collections. It was on this tour that I encountered Tara.  Her story is simple, yet powerful.  She first fell in love with Shakespeare’s sonnets and through them the full range of his dramatic output. Tara seized the opportunity presented by the 400th Anniversary commemorations to bring Shakespeare to a young audience and through them to the Serbian media, Royalty and Diplomatic Service.

Annette Ormanczyk, Tara and Jim stack tour
Annette Ormanczyk, Tara and Jim Ranahan on the stack tour at SBT (photo courtesy of Sanja Samardzich)

Tara has been a fine ambassador for Shakespeare, for Serbia and for her generation.  She really appreciated the opportunity to visit Shakespeare’s home and to see Shakespearean items and archives providing a wider context for his life and times. SBT’s extensive collections enabled us to display Serbian translations of Shakespeare’s works, as well as a rare example of the Third Folio (1664), Gerard’s Herbal (1597) and John Goodwin’s map of Stoneleigh (also 1597 and providing Tara with an insight into Warwickshire rural life in Shakespeare’s day).

Given Tara’s enthusiasm and her high profile achievements, it is easy to forget that she is still at school and that her love of Shakespeare has been demonstrated to her peers in very practical ways – through recitals, role play and – my favourite – a cardboard cut-out of the Bard! Tara created the ‘Card Bard’ whilst on holiday in Montenegro, it travelled by aeroplane to Belgrade, where it has been pressed into service at many venues.

Tara and the Card Bard
Tara and The Card Bard (photo courtesy of Sanja Samardzich)

Tara continues her studies in Belgrade and immerses herself in the works of Shakespeare whenever she can. However, she has one more passion – Sherlock Holmes, read in English of course! My abiding memory of Tara’s visit to SBT is her sheer delight at seeing Arthur Conan Doyle’s signature on a letter to Henry Irving (1895) – this having been displayed purely to illustrate the range of literary connections within our collections. Tara left Stratford with a very positive view of SBT and our resources and I was left feeling honoured to have met Tara and proud to have experienced first-hand the power of Shakespeare (and Conan Doyle!) to inspire people from different cultures and also the power of our collections, to bring these literary figures to life.

Thanks to SBT colleagues Alisan Cole (for introducing me to Tara) and Annette Ormanczyk (for helping me with the Collection tour).

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