The Bard in bronze: Piece honors CTC's 90th year and 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth

photo "Young Shakespeare," a piece by Lawrence Holofcener, will be located near the entrance of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. It will be unveiled March 16.
photo Sculptor Lawrence Holofcener works on "Young Shakespeare" in the Kendall Gallery in Coes, on the Isle for Wight.

IF YOU GO* What: "Young Shakespeare" statue unveiling.* When: 5 p.m. Sunday, March 16.* Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, River Road.* Phone: 267-8583.* Admission: Free for the unveiling.Some of the Shakespeare plays presented at the CTC over the years:* "Mr. and Mrs. M" (an adaptation of "Macbeth")* "Hamlet" (Youth Theater)* "The Taming of the Shrew"* "Romeo & Juliet"* "Macbeth"* "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

For much of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's 90-year history, patrons could at least feel the presence of William Shakespeare. It is, after all, hard to think of theater without thinking of The Bard.

And naturally, with so many decades of existence, the CTC has performed its share of Shakespearean tragedies and comedies. But after March 16, CTC visitors will have a constant visual reminder of William as well.

To help celebrate the CTC's anniversary, as well as the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, a life-sized sculpture of the playwright will take up permanent residence on the grounds outside the theater, which overlooks the Tennessee River.

Sculptor Lawrence Holofcener, who is an actor, playwright and painter as well, is perhaps best known as the sculptor of "Allies," the life-size bronzes of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt standing on Bond Street in London. The piece was unveiled by Princess Margaret in 1995 and has become a landmark.

"Young Shakespeare" was originally commissioned by organizers in Shoreditch, England, who were planning to build a theater over ruins thought to be "The Theatre" used by Shakespeare and James Burbage's acting company. Shakespeare wrote and acted there and was part owner. The new theater never opened, so Holofcener, who holds dual citizenships in England and America, found a new place for the work.

The piece is a gift to the CTC from Jo Coke, former president of the venue's board of directors.

The unveiling will take place on Sunday, March 16, following the final performance of Shakespeare's comedy, "The Taming of the Shrew," and will feature a wind ensemble from the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera.

The cost of "Young Shakespeare" wasn't available, but a copy of "Allies" sold at auction in 2012 for $648,500.

"We are thrilled with Jo's generous gift to the Theatre Centre," says George Quick, executive director of the CTC. "This likeness of our greatest playwright, on these beautiful grounds, will be enjoyed for many years."

The piece will sit by the main entrance of the Theatre Centre, welcoming patrons.

"I am thrilled about that," says Holofcener, who says he plans to travel from his American home in Florida to attend the unveiling. "I have been to the theater center and it is wonderful."

Earlier this week, it was announced that British Consul General Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford will travel from Atlanta for the unveiling as well.

The work features a younger Shakespeare standing with one foot on a bench and holding a folio.

"I wanted him to be younger," Holofcener says. "Virile and athletic."

He points out that there were no paintings done of The Bard while he was alive, with most done five or more years after his death.

"He is always bald and old. I wasn't happy about presenting him that way," Holofcener says.

Other life-size sculptures by Holofcener include Thomas Paine in Bordentown, N.J., and, in the U.K., John Lennon, William Tyndale, William Penn, Thomas Chatterton and a young Churchill for the London Churchill Hyatt. The "Faces of Olivier," a bas relief of Lawrence Olivier, internationally famous for his performances of such Shakespearean characters as Hamlet, Othello, Henry V and Richard III, hangs in the Chichester Festival Theatre in Sussex, England. It was unveiled by Lord Olivier himself in 1985.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

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