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Fredonia Shakespeare Club holds annual tea

The Fredonia Shakespeare Club kicked off its 135th year with the club’s traditional tea, held virtually on Oct. 1.

Seventeen members and guests were in attendance. The club’s area of study for the 2020-21 year is “Humor and Humorists.”

Mary Croxton, club president, welcomed Amy Near, the Fredonia Shakespeare Club’s newest member.

Croxton introduced guest speaker Dr. Virginia Schaefer Horvath, former State University at Fredonia president and former member of the Fredonia Shakespeare Club. Horvath’s presentation focused on “What’s So Funny? And Why Does It Matter?” reflecting her background in comedy and humor studies.

Horvath highlighted some theories of humor and the roles of laughter and the comic in peoples’ lives, noting that no one single theory can fully explain the psychological component of humor. Theories of humor have been put forth by Sigmund Freud (on jokes); Henri Bergson (on the comic); Scott Weems (on the science of laughter); and David Crystal (on language play) to name a few. Author Norman Cousins famously studied laughter therapy in the “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.” Their approaches touch on the physical and therapeutic components of humor, along with the psychological element.

Horvath noted that “processing jokes is similar to other complex cognitive work,” and that “the comic does not exist outside the pale of what is strictly human.” She explored the various lenses for looking at humor: “What does it expose or delight in?” Horvath demonstrated and practiced “laughter yoga” with the club, noting that 15 minutes of belly laughter a day can provide powerfully effective health benefits. She responded to questions following her remarks to the club.

The tea was organized by incoming officers: Mary Croxton, president; Dr. Lisa Mertz, vice president; Nicki Schoenl, treasurer; and Gail Crowe, secretary.

The Fredonia Shakespeare Club was established in 1885. In October 1886, the first of the regular annual cycles began, initiating an unbroken sequence of meetings of the club over the 130 years.

The next meeting of the club will be held on Thursday, Oct. 8, when Joyce Haines will present her paper on P.G. Wodehouse.

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