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Last Update:
February 16, 2018


Shakespeare Plays
Popularity Index


What's new on Shakespeareances.com

Pointless Theatre in Washington, D.C., has been added to the Theater Links and Bard on the Boards, including production of Imogen.

Bard on the Boards Updates

Kentucky Shakespeare Festival
American Players Theatre

Pigeon Creek Shakespeare
Philadelphia Artists' Collective

Australian Shakespeare Company

Merced Shakespearefest

Bard's Town
Trinity Shakespeare Festival
St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival
Santa Clarita Shakespeare
Sweet Tea Shakespeare
The Rustic Mechanicals
Hawaii Shakespeare Festival

The Drilling Company

Sonoma Shakespeare
Shakespeare in the Vines

Bard on the Beach

Shakespearemachine
Santa Cruz Shakespeare

Belt Valley Shakespeare Players

Shakespeare in Action

Hamlet Isn't Dead

African-American Shakespeare Company

Delaware Shakespeare Festival

Theater at Monmouth

Smith Street Stage
Shakespeare at Winedale

Muse of Fire

Valley Shakespeare Festival

Great Lakes Theater

EmilyAnn Theatre

Signature Theatre
The Public
Riverside Theatre
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
Shakespeare's Globe

Boston University Shakespeare Society
Royal Shakespeare Company
PacRep Theatre
Utah Shakespeare Festival

News and Anouncements

Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Rauch Leaving OSF for World Trade Center Job

BAM—Tony-Winning Binder Tapped to Lead BAM

Commentary

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

A Father's Love: Issues with Daddies in Shakespeare

A tournament of Shakespeareances: Titles Tilt for the Title

On Stage

Much Ado About Nothing: At the Heart of a Still-Beating Comedy

Love's Labour's Lost: When Love Speaks

The Fall of King Henry (aka Henry VI, Part 3): No Bed of Roses

Romeo and Juliet: Fight Time

A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Dream Dream Celebrates a Waking Dream

The Tempest: The Palpable Presence of the Missing Third

Henry VI, Part 2: Bootleg Shakespeare's Timely Undertow

A Midsummer Night's Dream: It's Mendelssohn, Not Meddlesome

King John / The Lion in Winter: The Common Roar

Much Ado About Nothing: The Boys Are Back In Town

Macbeth: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Julius Caesar: Past and Present Tense

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

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Bottom's Up

The Tempest: A Concoction Strange and Wondrous

Henry VI, Part One: A Great Stake

As You Like It: The Seven Ages of Man wine-pairing menu

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

And Also

2016 In Review and Top 20 + 10 Shakespeareances

Top 40 Shakespeareances

Plays seen: The Numbers

Find additional Shakespeareances
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The Canon Project: 38 Plays 38 Theaters 1 Year: Click here for the journal. Updated February 11 Caricature of Shakespeare with suitcase, iPad and iPod A message for snobs only: click here

On Stage: Coriolanus

Of the People

Sicinius in green work shirt and ragged brown cargo vest stands chest to chest with Coriolanus, a coagulated wound on his left temple and wearing a green long-sleeve t-shirt and green gargo vestThe entire first scene takes place in the crowded lobby and the hallway heading to the theater. Once inside the theater, the characters emerge from us and the action envelopes us. Fourth-wall-shattering theater is no longer a novel concept; indeed, it was the standard staging condition in Shakespeare's time. These days, though, the exercise is often theatrical calisthenics, an aren't-we-cool aesthete—gimmickry. Brave Spirits Artistic Director Charlene V. Smith, who helms this production of Coriolanus, does not indulge in gimmickry. She explores Shakespeare's texts with both a trust and openness that results in some of the most theatrically stimulating Shakespearean experiences I've known. She does so again with this Coriolanus. For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: Imogen

Refocusing Shakespeare's Play from Y to X

Imogen sitting in bed, wearing blue nightdress, book in her lap, and in window above her a shadow puppet of a man with long finges attackine a woman on an outline of a book. Iachimo's trunk is in the foreground of the photoCritics have described William Shakespeare’s late-career romance Cymbeline as a fairy tale. That’s the guys’ take. In her take, Charlie Marie McGrath contends that Imogen's fairy tale comes before the play begins. Then the men—her father, her stepbrother, her husband, his friend—along with her evil stepmother turn her tale into a nightmare. McGrath's adaptation, which she also directs for Pointless Theatre in Washington, D.C., looks at Cymbeline from a decidedly female perspective, and if you think it violates Shakespeare’s intentions or the play's accepted stage traditions, consider first whether it’s your Shakespearean sensibilities or your XY chromosome combo shaping your thinking. I realized I had to take that into consideration with my assessment of this production, and it wasn’t easy because, you know, I'm a guy. For the complete review.

Henry, leaning back with hands behind his head, wearing tan vest, tan sweater vest, tan puffy-sleeved shirt, tan slacks, tan shoes, red scarf tied at neck, and sunglasses; Charles in shin-high slightly pink pants with gray swirls, denim vest, puffy-sleved gray swirled shirt, blue scarf, sunglasses, red shoes, legs crossed, sit at a table with blue martinees.On Stage: The Way of the World

Money Talks

Neither have I read nor seen The Way of the World, William Congreve's 1700 comedy of manners, marriage, and money, which Theresa Rebeck has rewritten for the modern setting of the East Hamptons (the wealthy enclave for New Yorkers on Long Island). Rebeck also reshaped Congreve's play to widen the women's point of view, and as such the Folger Theatre chose this makeover of a late-Restoration Era classic as its entry in the Capitol Region's second Women's Voices Theater Festival. Rebeck trims out much of the convoluted plot and circumstances typical of a Congreve play and gets to the comedy's core theme: love and sex as a commodity in a society where money is what matters most. For the complete review, click here.

Hamlet looking up, motioning with both arms, wearing white shirt, black renaissance vest and  a red scarf draped over his shoulderOn Stage: Hamlet

Virtual Reality for the Soul

Talk about immersive theater. Without virtual reality technology, digital effects, or elaborate sets, you are immersed into the world of the Ghost, the troubled mind of Hamlet, the guilty mind of Claudius, the practical mind of Gertrude, the naive mind of Polonius, the incensed mind of Laertes, the fractured mind of Ophelia, and even the mesmerized minds of the gallants sitting on their on-stage stools. Seven days have passed since that moment, and I'm not only still pondering this production's place in all my life's Shakespeareances, I'm still feeling the vibrations in my cheeks, the tingles in my gut, the intensified thumping in my heart, and my stinging palms as I rerun through my mind's eye Hamlet and Gertrude in the closet scene, Ophelia's madness, Claudius watching the Mousetrap, Hamlet and Horatio just being Hamlet and Horatio, and that Ghost. It's theater so immersive you can't get it out of your own system.For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: Richard II

Divine Right

Casting a woman as the title character in William Shakespeare's Richard II is not a novel idea. The tradition follows a line of critical thinking that sees this particular king as an effeminate and weak tragic hero. Sarah Fallon is playing Richard in the American Shakespeare Center production, and the novel idea here is that she was cast not only because she's got the right skill sets for the role—expertise with Shakespeare's verse, second-nature sense of regal bearing, and ability to play inner strength and psychological disintegration even in the same moment—but also because she wouldn't play him as weak and effiminate. Sure, Richard is spoiled, loves flattery, is an inefficient governor, and is not politically astute. But he keeps a firm grip on his core ethic—divine right—and in his final scene, he kills two of the murderers before the gang finally overpowers him. That moral mettle and dangerous temperament runs through Fallon's performance, the centerpiece of an exquisitely fine ensemble staging of Shakespeare's most poetic play. For the complete review, click here.

Hamlet in gray t-shirt and jester's pants holds up a small poster of his father to Gertrude, wearing a red robe, both kneeling on the bed.On Stage: Hamlet

O'erstepping the Modesty of Nature

Defining accomplishment can be problematic when it comes to staging William Shakespeare plays. Michael Kahn's attention-to-details direction accomplishes a viable modern setting for the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Hamlet at Sidney Harman Hall. Michael Urie accomplishes a high-octane and freshly funny portrayal of the title character. And the whole receives a fervent standing ovation on opening night. By those same measures, this production falters mightily. That attention-to-details modernizing generates big laughs when the Ghost appears, when Polonius dies, and during the climactic duel. Urie's portrayal of Hamlet violates the very standards Hamlet himself sets as ideal stagecraft. As for that standing ovation, I can't help wondering how much incubated Washington, D.C., audiences rely mostly on reputation, exhibitionism, and cleverness for cleverness's sake in their assessment of quality theater. To continue this review, click here.

Hamlet in white with black glove holding foil faces off with Laertes in white fencing shirt and black pants, with Horatio in a suit and tie in the middle as refereeOn Stage: Hamlet

Crafting Madness

William Shakespeare plopped a lot of clichés into his play, Hamlet, albeit they didn't become clichés until the play made them so by attaining a status as one of the greatest literary achievements of the Western World. Theaters taking on Hamlet have to grapple with presenting a play everybody knows so well without it coming off as a string of aural and visual clichés. Shakespeare Miami's 1920's Denmark-set production, helmed by Colleen Stovall, the company's founder and producing artistic director, embraces some of these moments and brushes aside one of the play's most famous sequences. At other points, however, Seth Trucks as Hamlet burrows deep into the essence of the moment, surfacing the truths from which some of theater's most iconic passages and visual images evolved. For the complete review, click here.

Feste in dirty blue overcoat, brown striped pants, brown dotted vest, and red knit cap sits on the edge of a large wooden table.On Stage: Twelfth Night

Live Theater As Theater of Lives

"For what says Quinapalus?" Feste, the household jester (aka, fool), asks rhetorically, looking around the room. OK, apparently not rhetorically. The room Ben Steinfeld's Feste is perusing in Fiasco Theater's production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at New York City's Classic Stage Company (CSC) is not an imagined one in Olivia's house but the theater itself with some 199 people filling every seat on three sides of the deep-thrust stage. That audience remains silent, so Steinfeld says, "I'll remind you," a non-Shakespearean line eliciting a laugh before he gets back to Shakespeare's text: What Quinapalus says is "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit." Fiasco Theater, a New York–based troupe of young actors, has emerged as one of the world's leading Shakespeare practitioners. This Twelfth Night further cements that status. Though this is the 27th stage production of the play I've seen, I came away feeling it was the first time I got the whole story. For the complete review, click here.

The Canon Project

38 Plays, 38 Theaters, One Year

Shakespeareances.com rings in the New Year by launching a major undertaking for 2018: seeing the entire Shakespeare canon, each play at a different theater across North America. Called the Canon Project, the adventure, which kicks off tomorrow, will entail the full spectrum of theaters and a variety of staging styles from corner-to-corner of the continent. I will keep a journal of my journeys on Shakespeareances.com and wrap up the project with a book profiling each theater and community where Shakespeare lives. For details of the project and the site for the journal, click here.

[Six entries have been added atop the journal.]

2017 in Review and Top 20 + 5 Shakespeareances

Theater As Craft and Context

Orlando in blue and tan embroidered vest over white shirt, his leath-forearm-banned arm resting on his knee, Rosalind in floral gold vest on white shirt, the knees of her orange britches visible, and her head leaning on Orlando's shoulder.I don't know of anyone among my family, loved ones, close friends, and associates from a spectrum of cultural backgrounds and ideological positions who felt 2017 was a good year. The Shakespeare play that dominated the year, Julius Caesar, did so because the political turmoil that has displaced true governance and the dissentious nature the population on both sides of the political divide have chosen to embrace overtook the artistic intent of one production. We did not see that Public Theater Shakespeare in the Park staging of Julius Caesar, casting Donald Trump as Caesar and creating a firestorm that engulfed other productions of the play across the country, but we saw two other productions of the play and several other Shakespeare plays during which we couldn't help seeing current politicians in various roles: Richard III, Measure for Measure, Coriolanus, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Henry VI, Part Two and Part Three, King John, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, and even As You Like It. That is what theater is meant to do: Make you reflect, inspire you to learn (a quality I regret to say is missing in political discourse these days, even among our elected leaders in both parties), and then take action, even if just to better your own disposition. Theater is also meant to entertain, to move you to tears when Mercutio dies (and you are genuinely sad at the loss) or when Pyramus dies (and you laugh yourself to a wet beard). Here in the last minutes of this 2017, I'm smiling in recollection of all the great theate we saw this year. That's the power of theater.For the complete year-end review and ranking of top Shakespeareances, click here.

Caricature of Shakesepeare in chef's jacket and hat, quill pen stuck in hat, holding a pot in his left hand and a whisk in his rightShakespearecure: Cymbeline

A Wing and a Pear

Just in time for the winter holiday feasts, we are revisiting and revising our Shakespearecurean menus with the intent to complete the entire canon of recipes over the next couple of years. The first of the revisions, Cymbeline, has been posted, along with a PDF version for easy use at the grocers an in the kitchen. For the complete menu, click here.

Viola, wearing a green jacket and pants, blue shirt, and bright orange tie with a giant ladybug at the bottom, sits on the arm at one end of a three-seat airport lobby bench, one foot on the ground, one on a seat, arms outspread as she talks to the air while Olivia, stretched out on the other end of the bench and wearing black pant suit and floor-length black coat watches in fascination.On Stage: Twelfth Night

A Dying Fall Resurrects As a Great Play

When the plane crashes, the audience applauds—raucous, prolonged applause. Right up front I want to point out that disturbing observation of humanity's schizophrenic nature. I didn't clap, though I admit I had just witnessed as impressive a theatrical moment as I've ever seen on any stage, anywhere. And through that moment we along with Viola arrive in Illyria—actually, we are still back in the airport boarding lounge, but we've definitely arrived at William Shakespeare's most sublime comedy, Twelfth Night, with an ingenious, Ethan McSweeny-helmed staging at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.For the complete review, click here.

Lepedus, Octavius, and Antony sit on either side of a triangle platform in the middle of the floor, all dressed in leather armor.On Stage: Antony and Cleopatra

The World Is Their Toy Box

Like college courses or even acting classes, Robert Richmond-helmed Shakespeare plays should come with prerequisites for all who attend: They must have read or seen the play at least once. I've seen a dozen stagings of Antony and Cleopatra and have read it at least a half-dozen times, and even I got confused during this Folger Theatre production. As is his wont, Richmond has taken a William Shakespeare play to places beyond perhaps even Richmond's own comprehension, based on the mixed visual metaphors of his staging and the thematic corners he works his actors into. I don't mind surprises when I'm watching a Shakespeare play, and I am absolutely not against adapting any of his works, as long as such adaptations achieve theatrical merit or expand philosophical insights into the plays. With Antony and Cleopatra, Richmond's adaptation results in a mixed bag on both counts. For the complete review, click here.

Faustus in blue shirt and long fest and green slacks kneels with hands outspread before a black bag in the middle of a ring of apothacary bottles and pieces of paperOn Stage: Doctor Faustus

The Devil Is in the Details

That Doctor Faustus, the Wittenberg University professor turned sorcerer, is a woman in Brave Spirits Theatre's current incarnation of Christopher Marlowe's play is only half the equation. That she is a young woman makes all the poignant difference in how this cautionary tale of temptation, soul-selling, black magic, and devilish cunning plays out. In the title role is Charlene V. Smith, Brave Spirits' producing artistic director and playing the part for the second time in her nascent career. Directing the piece is Paul Reisman, artistic director of the outstanding Washington, D.C.-based commedia dell'arte theater company, Faction of Fools. They still must contend with the pedantic pacing and clunky comedy of the playwright, but in the telling of Faustus's dramatic career arc, Reisman, Smith, and company score with a searing relevancy beyond staging the play in modern dress.For the complete review, click here.

Stache, bald head, thick (fake) fu manchu mustache around his lips an wearing a tapestry-like gold coat has his left arm around Peter, who's wearing a holy striped shirt, grubby jeans, and burlap vest, as they confer. In the background is the actress playing Molly sitting, watching, in front of a white drapeOn Stage: Peter and the Starcatcher

Such Starstuff As Dreams Are Made On

Something significant is missing in the American Shakespeare Center's production of Rick Elice's Peter and the Starcatcher at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. There's great acting, experienced directing, and all the typical attributes of a play staged in the world's only re-creation of William Shakespeare's own indoor theater. Even Will himself is present—kind of, with three degrees of separation. Certainly Shakespeare's spirit is in this production, for the play itself represents a brand of theater that has brought the theatrical arts full circle since Shakespeare's own productions. Which leads us back to the significant thing missing here: A wall.For the complete review, click here.

Antonia, in black blouse with black and white striped shoulders and sleeves to elbows and a bow on the collar and black pants kneels next to Caesar's bloody body; she's holding a knife in her righ hand and looking up at someone beyond the bodyOn Stage: Julius Caesar

Et tu …?

Julius Caesar is dead. His assassins vibrate in the shock of their butchery. As their senses return, some shout "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!" and others begin thinking of how to spin their deed to other senators and the public. Cassius, the conspiracy's instigator, excitedly shouts, "How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown!" Is this a joke? Self-aware winking on the part of the playwright, you think? William Shakespeare inserted this comment at this pivotal moment of his play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, and though the timing might seem odd, such a joke fits in with the play's comic threads. However, this is not a joke, not in Michael Tolaydo's incisively insightful Chesapeake Shakespeare Company production. In this modern-dress production by actors in a state unborn at the time of Caesar's assassination (and when Shakespeare wrote this play), it is not a theatrical moment being repeated but the historical event itself that proves redundant. For the complete review, click here.

Romeo has hold of Tybalt's knife-weilding right hand and with a knife in his own right hand takes a swipe at Tybalt. Tybalt in purple jacket and blue jeans, no socks; Romeo in gray tshirt and black jeans. A man looks on smiling in the background of a red-decor nightclubSnout in turquoise shirt but bare outstretched arms holding a fabric rendering of a white brick wall and wearing a pillar cap on his head (he also wears large, dark-framed glasses) with Bottom in red tunic and classic Greek leather armor, arm bands, and plumed helmet holding up two fingers; a cheezy gold and white curtain in the background.Commentary: Shakespeare’s Hot 40

Ranking The Bard’s Plays by Stage Popularity

This is a slap at my ego to write this, but Bard on the Boards, my list of William Shakespeare productions current and coming, is the most popular feature on Shakespeareances.com. I would love to think that my reviews and commentaries get more readership than a list of titles on the playbills of theaters around the world, but those plays are far more popular than anything I write. How popular? Or, to the point of this particular essay, which of the plays are the most popular? This site's most popular feature, Bard on the Boards, could answer that question. For this the sixth anniversary of Shakespeareances.com's launch, I've studied the site's archives to rank all of Shakespeare's plays by the frequency that they have been produced over the past half-decade and in the past year. To read that feature and see the rankings, click here.

New feature: the Shakespeare Plays Popularity Index

Harry sitting in chair sipping from a tea cup he holds in his right hand over a saucer in his left, he's wearing a rust-patterned robe over a shirt and tie and black pants. Behind him, Bill in tight green pull-over shirt and checkered pants pours tea in his cup; he's standing next to a bar cart with crystal and bottles on top, and a line of Chinese porcelain in a glass case behind him. A Persian rug is on the bloor, and a wood end table and magazine rack are on either side of Harry's chair.On Stage: The Lover / The Collection

Huh? Huh. Mmnn.

If you start feeling the urge to condemn me for not inserting spoiler alerts in this review, save your passion. I can't spoil something when I'm as befuddled as the next person (in this case, that would be my wife) watching this Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) twin bill of Harold Pinter one-act plays, The Lover and The Collection. Which is not, necessarily, meant to demean either of these plays or this production. Pinter writes thought-provoking plays, and these two fit that bill. Sometimes those provoked thoughts are disjointed and merely circle around the universal question that so often nags at humankind: Huh? I've decided my purpose with this essay is not to praise or dispraise these plays or this production, but to herd all my provoked thoughts into some logical conclusions—my logic, of course, not anybody else's. And if you think I've spoiled any plot turns for you along the way, trust me (or if you are familiar with Pinter, trust him): the plots of both plays are spoil-proof. For the complete review, click here.