WATERVILLE — They marched through the downtown in Elizabethan garb, waving sticks with green and red ribbons and singing songs written by the guest of honor: William Shakespeare.

“Anon!” Emily Rowden Fournier called to a woman who poked her head out of a storefront door. “Happy 450th birthday to the great William Shakespeare!”

Fournier, in a pouffy, multicolored dress with strings tied tightly at the waist, then curtsied. Her mother, Lyn Rowden, dressed as Queen Elizabeth I, stood nearby.

“It took us two hours to get dressed, between us,” Fournier said. “We now understand why women back then had ladies in waiting.”

It was noon and the women were fluttering about with other characters in costume, including Fournier’s husband, Joshua, dressed as the Bard of Avon himself in striped billowing pants, tall black boots, a white, ruffle-collared shirt and velvet cap with a feather protruding from the front.

They were reading sonnets aloud and preparing to celebrate the birthday of the British poet and playwright at Selah Tea Cafe on Main Street, where they would be joined by 150 other people, many of whom would read a sonnet until all 154 had been recited aloud. The party, starting at 2 p.m., lasted until the early evening.

Readers included local public figures such as Mayor Karen Heck, Fairfield Town Manager Joshua Reny, state Sen. Colleen Lachowicz, D-Waterville, and state Rep. Karen Kusiak, D-Fairfield.

But first, the Fourniers and Rowden regaled window shoppers.

They sang in unison as they swarmed up Silver Street, through the restaurant section: “For he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow, for he’s a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny!”

Stepping into the Last Unicorn restaurant, they announced the Bard’s birthday, read a sonnet and received applause from patrons who stopped eating to gape.

“Beautiful!” bartender Cheryl Pellerin said as she waltzed by.

A Shakespeare fan since she was young, Emily Rowden Fournier, 26, and her family, of Fairfield, not only organized the Shakespeare birthday party, but also recently formed a theater troupe called the Recycled Shakespeare Company.

They will hold auditions for their first performance, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Tuesday in the basement of St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church on Front Street.

Everyone who auditions will be cast, as a way to bring the community together in the spirit of Elizabethan times, according to Emily Rowden Fournier, who will be the company’s producer. Her brother, Aaron Rowden, will direct.

When the troupe entered Selah Tea around 2 p.m. Wednesday, they met Richard Sewell, a Shakespearean actor and founder of the Theater at Monmouth, who was theater director at Colby College for 27 years.

Sewell, who said he wasn’t aware a Shakespeare party was to take place at the cafe Wednesday, laughed heartily and was tickled at the sight of the Elizabethan characters tromping in, reciting sonnets. “I had no idea – it looks like fun,” he said.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

acalder@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @AmyCalder17