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Last Update:
April 22, 2019


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What's new on Shakespeareances.com
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Classic Stage Company Play On! Festival (Oregon Shakespeare Festival translation project)

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival
Clever by Half
Classical Actors Ensemble

Bards of Birmingham

Island Stage Left

Hudson Shakespeare Company

Sonoma Shakespeare

Theatreworks

Hampshire Shakespere Company

Original Practice Shakespeare Festival

Summer Theatre of New Canaan
Night Shift

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre

Wyoming Shakespeare Festival Company

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival

Belt Valley Shakespere Players

EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens

Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival

Apocryphal Shakespeare Company

News and Anouncements

Los Angeles Drama Club—L.A. Children's Theater Invited to Kenya

Apocryphal Shakespeare Company—New Company Stages Apocrypha Readings

Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Nataki Garrett Named Artistic Director

Public Broadcasting Service— Donmar's Caesar Makes U.S. Broadcast Debut

Royal Shakespeare Company—Theater-Spatial Computing Fellows Selected

Signature Theatre—Testing of App

for Hearing Impaired Begins

Delaware Shakespeare—NEA Grant Supports Romeo & Juliet Tour

Commentary

The Worst is Never the Worst until the Worst: Finding Comfort in Edgar in Times of Woes

Shakespeare's Hot 40: Ranking The Bard's Plays by Stage Popularity

Another Happy Anniversary: Passion Play

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: The Birth of a Man

Locker Room Talk and Sexual Assault: To Whom Should I Complain?

A Ghost Story: The Real-Life Drama of The Executor

Opening Day: The All-Shakespeare Baseball Team

In Memoriam: Dean L. Minton Sr.—Methinks I See My Father

A Happy Birthday: Enduring Wind and Weather

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Translation Project: Chill, People

On Stage

Timon of Athens: Capitalism Rises and Falls in a Ruin

Much Ado About Nothing: Comedy Rising to the Heights in the Rose

Macbeth: The Magic Macbeth Show

The Cherry Orchard: Unmasking a Masterpiece

Titus Andronicus: Some Key Ingredients Missing From Otherwise Delicious Titus

Othello: 'Tis Love, 'Tis True, 'Tis Pity, Too

Drunken Shakespeare: Raising the Bar with More and Much More

Henry IV, Part One: The Bling's the Thing

All's Well That Ends Well: All's Well That Starts Well

On Screen

Shakespeare Uncovered 2: Second Set of Mini-Documentaries Reveals Bard's Brilliance with Filmmaking to Match

Still Dreaming: Past the Wit of Man to Say What Dream it Was

Twelfth Night: What Achieved Greatness Was Born Great

Romeo and Juliet: Too Dumb for Tweens

The Hollow Crown—Henry V: The Crown Comes Full Circle

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part Two: Falstaff Diminished, This Play Is Built on Irons

The Hollow Crown—Henry IV, Part One: Irons' Henry IV Reigns O'er His Own Play

The Hollow Crown—Richard II: This Crown Jewel Is a Hollow Richard

Romeo and Juliet: Rudolph & Margot Trump Romeo & Juliet

Much Ado About Nothing: Innate Understanding of Shakespeare's Ways Underlies Whedon's Masterful Much Ado

On Air

Much Ado About Nothing: The Couple in Love, With Their Own Selves

The Tempest: A 1612 Space Oddity

Hamlet: Good Radio vs. Good Shakespeare: With This Hamlet It's a Drawl

Midsummer Night's Dream: To See a Voice and Hear a Face With Fairy Magic and Bottom's Roar

Romeo and Juliet: The Tone Is Out of Joint

In Print

The Year of Lear: His Life in His Time

The Book of William: Book a Journey through First Folios

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Beyond Even Unreasonable Doubt Book Establishes Shakespeare's Authorship

Hobson Woodwards' A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest

Stephen Landrigan and Qais Akbar Omar's Shakespeare in Kabul

Interviews

Fiasco Theater: How Downsizing Leads To Supersizing Shakespeare

Olivia and Maria: From Mourning to Light, Tonya Beckman Plays through Two Twelfth Nights

Richard III and Queen Margaret: Four Years, Two Immortal Enemies

A Day with The Brooklyn Tech Students: Shakespeare at the Dawn of a New Generation

A Shakespeare Impresario—Playing the Whole Shakespeare Canon: Great Works and Good Work, Too

Bardroom
Racial Casting and Theatrical Sacrilege

Gender Politics in Staging Shakespeare

Shakespearecure

Cymbeline: A Wing and a Pear

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Bottom's Up

The Tempest: A Concoction Strange and Wondrous

Henry VI, Part One: A Great Stake

Macbeth: Fowl with Red Pepper Sauce, Lady Macbeth's Curse, Porter Rhubarb, and a Witches' Stew

And Also

2018 In Review and Top 25 + 5 Shakespeareances

Top 40 Shakespeareances

Plays seen: The Numbers

Find additional Shakespeareances
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The Tempest

Insubstantial Pageant? Hardly

Production photo of Prospera speaking, Mirnada sleeping, and Ariel leaning on the stage listeningMistress of a "full poor cell." Yeah, right. Prospera's abode on the mysterious island of William Shakespeare's The Tempest is the cluttered remnants of a mid-20th century movie palace in Joe Dowling's production at San Diego's Old Globe. This set designed by Alexander Dodge is the kind of stage scenery a well-endowed theater uses to wow! audiences and sometimes distracts from the art being plied by playwright and performers. In this production, the cast of accomplished actors keeps the focus on Shakespeare's masterful story. The scenery also proves practical for a play that explores family bonds, social bonds, and humankind's bond with nature and presents an allegorical foundation for Dowling's staging of Shakespeare's comedy about political power lost and natural powers gained, of revenge and forgiveness. The latter is made most poignant by the performances of Emmy-winning and Tony-nominated Burton in the lead role and longtime fave René Thornton Jr., appearing in his fifth production of The Tempest, as her brother Antonio. For the complete review, click here.

Arden of Faversham

The Crime, The Comedy, The Burning Passion

Thomas Arden, an entrepreneur and real estate developer in Faversham, England, sits down to breakfast before departing for London. Someone backstage starts plucking on a double bass. It's an ominous soundtrack with a jazz-tinged groove. Either somebody is about to die, or we're about to see some fun. This soundtrack plays seven times in the American Shakespeare Center's production of the circa 1590 play Arden of Faversham at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. Yet, only one time is a person offed, and only one person is offed despite the number of times we hear this bass line riff. Arden of Faversham is not a whodunnit but a howdunnit—or, rather, a hownotdunnituntilfinallydunnit. The many missteps made in trying to murder Arden turns this real crime drama into a comic gem burnished to brilliant, multifaceted matter in the hands of the American Shakespeare Center actors capping off one of the company's most artistically satisfying Actors' Renaissance Seasons. For the complete review, click here.

Cymbeline

Shakespeare Establishes the Genre Farce

Production photo by Will Kirk Photography of Iachimo sitting up in trunk with big grinWith each reading of William Shakespeare's late-career romance Cymbeline, I become more convinced he wrote a farce. I've got no Shakespearean scholarship supporting my contention, and most productions I've seen play Cymbeline earnestly, but I simply can't see how Shakespeare took any of this seriously. He was eyeing the end of his writing career. Maybe his intent was to do the complete works of William Shakespeare abridged, which would make Cymbeline the springhead of the genre farce. What Airplane! is to disaster movies, what Naked Gun is to cop shows, what Scary Movie is to scary movies, Cymbeline is to Shakespeare plays. Given the disdain I hear and read about the play, the serious approaches I see, and the fact Cymbeline is positioned among the tragedies in the First Folio, maybe my take on it is only wishful thinking. Well, wish fulfilled. The Baltimore Shakespeare Factory has produced a Cymbeline wrapped in a Monty Pythonesque sense of humor I've long divined in the text, and it works just as I've always thought it would.For they complete review, click here.

Production photo of Becky and Amelia, both pregnant in Regency gowns, staring each other down.Vanity Fair

Blinded By the Dark

I have seen the future of live theater. Unfortunately, I was watching it from the past. We are sitting a half-dozen rows from the Lansburgh Theatre stage watching the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Vanity Fair, Kate Hamill's enticingly agile adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's 1847–1848 serialized novel. Hamill's own stamp on the story is Shakespearean in scope and texture, combining with Thackeray's plot and themes to make enlightening, in-the-moment theater. Except that we, the audience, are not in that moment; we are left in the dark. To continue the review, click here.

A Two Woman Hamlet

What's My Clothesline?

Production photo of Nicola Collett with an untied bowtie and Hannah Sweet a multicolored scarf The red coat hangs on piping in the backgroundI collect things. With William Shakespeare, I don't try to see every production out there, but like any serious collector—and not just the OC-type—I seek out the unusual as well as the significant and the craftwork for which I have a personal fondness. My collection of 25 staged Hamlets, for example, includes a wordless version, a commedia dell'arte version, a First Quarto version, a four-person production, three one-person productions, and a one-woman-but-actually-four-women production. Now I've added to my treasures a two-woman Hamlet called A Two Woman Hamlet at WSC Avant Bard. Some of the minimal-actor Hamlets I've seen are little more than theatrical stunts. Nevertheless, in all these Hamlets, actors bring their own particular insights to a play that's been analyzed and even played every which way over the years but still has the capacity to surprise. Hannah Sweet and Nicola Collett, the two women of this production's title, present their 80-minute Hamlet with a sketch-comedy vibe, but they nonetheless delve into some emotional conundrums in the work and contribute their own interesting perspectives. For the complete review, click here.

Henry IV, Part One

Royalty and Loyalty in the DNA

Production photo of Henry glaring at a blurry Worcester at the front of image.It starts with a poetry slam. Not William Shakespeare versus Kit Marlowe but Montell Jordan versus Kendrick Lamar. It continues in a post-punk meets hip-hop aesthete, the actors costumed in torn jeans, black leather, and bling, the rebels wearing double-breasted, red-trimmed blue uniform tunics, Hal wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with "Hotspur sucketh" (available for sale in the lobby). Is this what happens when you turn a Shakespeare play over to a dozen actors and tell them to stage it by themselves in five days? Yes, it is and thank goodness because, collectively and individually, the members of the Actors' Renaissance Season company at the American Shakespeare Center have given us a most inventive and insightful Henry IV, Part One. To continue this review, click here

Production photo of Falstaff holding two halves of a red paper heartThe Merry Wives of Windsor

I'm Just Saying

Rick Blunt walks onto the Blackfriars Playhouse stage in Staunton, Virginia. That's all he has to do for cheers to erupt from half the patrons in the filled-to-capacity theater. The other half are newcomers to the American Shakespeare Center's re-creation of William Shakespeare's indoor theater, the only such specimen in the world, so they don't know Rick, the only such specimen in this world. The rest of us, who haven't seen him in more than three years, are glad to have him back. Yet, something has changed about Blunt since he last performed here: he's upped his game as an actor, and what he brings to the roles of Mistress Quickly and the Host of the Garter Inn exemplify the skills of an ensemble that make this Merry Wives of Windsor the creamiest of the crop I've seen. For the complete review, click here.

Production photo of Anne Page hugging Courtney Ash, sitting on a table, from behind.Anne Page Hates Fun

A Flamingo Takes Flight

The real suspense this evening at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia: Will this play in any way and in every way be measured a success? So much more is riding on that mystery than those posed in the play. Amy E. Witting's Anne Page Hates Fun won the first of 38 playwriting contests in the American Shakespeare Center's ambitious Shakespeare's New Contemporaries initiative to pair each William Shakespeare play with a new piece inspired by that play. For her take on The Merry Wives of Windsor, Witting won the $25,000 prize and the opportunity to have her work premiere as part of the Actors' Renaissance Season at the Blackfriars. Witting triumphed in having her script selected out of that initial batch, but the stakes are exponentially higher tonight: Her play has to win over a paying audience at the Blackfriars and serve as a herald for the potential worth of the entire Shakespeare's New Contemporaries effort. After the play, Amy Wratchford, managing director of the American Shakespeare Center, is looking at me, awaiting my reaction. I flash her a thumbs up. For the complete review, click here.

Production pic of Richard III with leather vest, knee brace, and cane.Richard III

The Tortured Path to Redemption

Uh-oh. I arrive at this judgment just a few lines into the David Muse–helmed production of William Shakespeare's Richard III at Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C. A rocky sequence of scenes follow, leaving this Shakesgeek feeling like he is on an intellectual roller coaster of a production trying to find its bearings. Like any well-designed coaster, though, Muse and his cast use unabashed theatricality in tandem with carefully calibrated performances to build a web of emotional intrigue that pays off with dramatic thrills and ends up in an uplifting vision of community. You just have to trust them to do their jobs. For the complete review, click here.

Production photo of Romeo on the ground and Friar Laurence comforitng him. Photo by Kenneth GarrettRomeo and Juliet

1 Plus 1 Sums Up with the Power of One

The power of the pedigrees is beyond question: playwright William Shakespeare and composer Hector Berlioz, together in one shared piece of work, Romeo and Juliet. Throw into the equation the Shakespeare Opera Theatre, a small theater company in Northern Virginia that, since its founding in 2015 by opera singer, arranger, and conductor Lori Lind, has successfully paired Shakespeare's plays with the musical works they inspired. This time, however, Lind may have bitten off a bit more than she could chew, not for lack of skill or will but because the two beasts she tries to tether together are too titanic in themselves to play nice with each other. We end up with half a good thing paired with half of another good thing, adding up to something less than the sum of its parts. Not until the final scene, when one piece of art gets nudged aside and the other is allowed to fully flourish, does the production take flight, and that 15-minute finale alone makes worthwhile my trek to Grace the Plains, the Grace Episcopal Church in The Plains, a rural community 50 miles west of Washington, D.C. For the complete review, click here.

Production pic of Leontes pointing at Paulina holding a basket with the babyThe Winter's Tale

A Sad Tale or a Merry Shall It Be

This is such a perfect convergence of place and purpose. We're at Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, California, to see Shakespeare by the Sea's production of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Amid the reunions of family and friends awash in a festival atmosphere between the city and the sea that giveth and taketh at the same time, we watch Shakespeare's play about all of the above. For those who consider The Winter's Tale unfocused and unwieldy in its structure, I say, look around you. The Winter's Tale is a play about life written like life, with simultaneous and juxtaposed highs and lows, fear and hope, comedy and tragedy. For those who say the plot is too fantastical, I say, where have you been lately? I'm watching this play at the most pertinent time (the Edwardian-costumed production in no way identifies any current headliner: Shakespeare did that all on his own). It helps to have a company of actors who awake our faith with pitch-perfect performances (in a play that pitches back and forth like a gale-rocking ship) and solid ensemble work under the direction of Stephanie Coltrin. For the complete review, click here.

Production photo of Lear sitting with Kent leaning over from behind, hands on her shouldersKing Lear

The Way It Begins Promises the End

People do such stupid things all the time with disasterous results. They confidently try beating the train. They blithely dive into water before checking its depth. They impatiently pass a stopped school bus with its lights flashing. They impetuously use their cigarette lighter to find a gas leak. The opening scene of William Shakespeare's King Lear is a catastrophe unfolding before our eyes caused by stupid, impetuous behavior. The keys to the kingdom's disintegration are in the details, as Zackary Bonin demonstrates staging that opening scene in his directorial debut, Shakespeare in the Vines' production of Lear—just Lear with the title role regendered and Bobbie Helland taking on the role for the second time in her career. The rest of the production doesn't quite maintain the promise of the first scene, but Bonin and Helland achieve what any King Lear must achieve to be considered a success, arriving at a climax that tugs at our tear ducts while bringing home the play's 2018 relevancy. For the complete review, click here.

The Tempest

The Power of Imagination, Mind over Magic

This review should start with the great visual that opens the Sweet Tea Shakespeare production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Instead, I'm going to start with the morning after, which represents a watershed moment for me as a Shakespeare aficionado and theater critic. Be assured, I'll get to a detailed description of that opening as well as the drag queens, the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers, the barbecue, the backyard setting and aesthete, why women matter, and the Baptist, too, in my review of this delightfully intriguing night of theater. For that review, click here.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

The Mystical Magic of Backyard Theater

The scene is played out countless times in countless backyards: children putting on a play for neighborhood friends and parents. Their technical skills may not be polished, but they have unfettered access to, and adroit skills with, one particularly important tool: their imaginations. With that, aspiring young thespians re-create distant physical worlds with abstract applications of the physical world they have at hand and invite us to believe what they want us to believe. By watching, we accept their invitation to be transported and end up appreciating how their imaginary forces work upon us. Now, here I am sitting in the backyard of a nice house in a downtown neighborhood of Fayetteville, North Carolina, watching just such a production—except these aren't children performing some well-known fairy tale. This is Sweet Tea Shakespeare performing a William Shakespeare fairy tale, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, behind the 1897 Poe House, but Director Jessica Schiermeister uses the aesthete of children's backyard theater to gloss over the unfocused text and an uneven acting corps to create an entertainingly magical piece of theater. For the complete review, click here.

The Comedy of Errors

Acts of Revelations, and Ephesians, Too

Antipholus, who hails from Syracuse, is newly alighted in Ephesus, dressed as if he stepped off of a Phoenician amphora, wearing a yellow, knee-length tunic and sandals with cross-straps up the shins. Actually, he looks more like he came out of a Disney rendition of classical Greek societies, so the tunic is bright yellow and sporting an ornate gold-scrolled blue trim. He sets out to "wander up and down to view the city." The first thing he spies is a UPS jetliner flying low overhead as it approaches Ephesus International Airport. Antipholus stops his meditation and stares up in awe at this wonder of the city. That's all Crystian Wiltshire, the actor playing Antipholus of Syracuse, can do in this Kentucky Shakespeare production of William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors in Louisville's Central Park, which just happens to be on the approach path to UPS's North American hub. This major economic engine for the community can be an occasional irritant to actors, audiences, and neighbors alike. Still, the two or three flyovers per show—and, more importantly, Wiltshire's in-character reaction—are part of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival's happening scene. To read the complete review, click here.