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Last Update:
February 24, 2017

What's new on Shakespeareances.com
Additions

Reader comment added to my review of King Charles III.

Added Red Bull Theater in New York City, to Theater Links and Bard on the Boards.

Added LitCharts to Shakespeare on the Web.

Bard on the Boards Updates

Shakespeare by the Sea (California) 2017 season

Bard Unbound ShakesBEER

Utah Shakespeare Festival
Words Cubed titles

Montford Park Players 2017 Season

Ford's Theatre 2017-18 Season

Publics studio plays

Next Stop Theatre adds title.

The Night Shift mounts Measure for Measure

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company summer title

Illinois Shakespeare Festival 2017 season

Sweet Tea Shakespeare

News and Anouncements

Orlando Shakespeare Theater—Roaring '20s Love's Labour's Lost on Trial

American Shakespeare Center—Blackfriars Playhouse Premieres New Play

Shakespeare & Company—Adam Davis Named Managing Director

Illinois Shakespeare Festival—40th Season Greets New Managing Director

Children's Shakespeare Theatre—New Space Opens Up Summer Camps

Shakespeare Theatre Company—Artistic Director Kahn Announces Retirement

St. Ann's Warehouse—Tempest Team Joins Prison Symposium

The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival—35 Famous Speeches & Places Mark 35 Years

Shakespeare Theatre Company—Charles III Inspires a Pocket Full of Royals

Commentary

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

To Adapt or Not to Adapt: All I'm Askin' For Is a Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Birdman and Shakespeare: A Life of Delusions Takes Flight

Mobility Impaired II: Combating Mobile Phone Addiction in Theaters

On Stage

Sense and Sensibility—Emotions in Motion

The Rise of Queen Margaret (Henry VI, Part 2): Masterwork in Hand Worth Two in the Making

Romeo and Juliet: A Lovely Libretto Bails Out in the End

Antony and Cleopatra: Epically Intimate

Richard III: Grave Consequences

King Lear: A Most Unfamiliar Lear in Its Purity

As You Like It: The Heart of the Matter

As You Like It: The Sound of Silence

The Tempest: Turning a Page As Prospero

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson: Fitting Its Place and Time

Love for Love: A Valentine

Love's Labour's Lost: Youth is Served, and Serves 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 Book of William: Book a Journey through First Folios

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

Hobson Woodwars' 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

Eric Rasmussen 's The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios

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

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

2015 In Review and Top 20 + 10 Shakespeareances

Top 40 Shakespeareances

Plays seen: The Numbers

Find additional Shakespeareances
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On Stage: King Charles III

A Shakespearean Reach

Kate in black dress suit with white shirt, hands folded at her waist stands next to William in gray suit and tie with white shirt standing at a pair of microphones. Standing slightly behind them, Charles in dress uniform with medals, blue sash, and gold braids watches with his hands clenched at his waist.On our way home after seeing a play—after we've allowed the intensity of the experience (excited or painful) to run its initial emotional and intellectual course—I ask my wife, Sarah, "So what did you think?" When I popped the question after seeing a new staging of Mike Bartlett's King Charles III at Washington, D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) produced in association with San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater and Seattle Repertory Theatre, Sarah went on to describe a different play from the one I saw—though we were sitting right next to each other in the theater, were both awake for the entire play, and both enjoyed it. Sarah, who could be labeled a "Royals watcher" from her infatuation with English monarchy past and present, saw a play about the members of the royal family projected into a future that begins with Queen Elizabeth's passing and Charles's ascending the throne. What I saw was a Shakespeare history play. To continue, click here.

Reader response added February 18, 2017.

On Stage: Coriolanus

A Man; Take Him for All in All

Coriolanus in black armor-like leather vest, blood on his arm, and blood dripping down his face from his forehead.This is the great conundrum of Coriolanus. Is the title character a hero or a villain? What is fact in the play, and what is "alternative fact?" Shakespeare, if not being obtuse, is at least presenting both the character and Roman society and its fickle population and manipulative politicians with dispassionate objectivity. In our age, Coriolanus tends to be antiheroic: There's a reason this play is showing up on an inordinate number of theater marquees this year (along with Richard III, Julius Caesar, and Measure for Measure). But René Thornton Jr. playing the part for the American Shakespeare Center's production at the Blackfriars Playhouse is not an antihero. He is engaging, funny, inspiring, endearing even. Thornton's performance is refreshing and disconcerting because I actually like this guy though it's clear in both the things he says and the way he behaves that he will pursue an authoritative course of rule and widen the economic gap between the patricians and the plebeians. But so what? Those plebeians certainly come off as a bunch of wusses. For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: The Tempest

Master of a Full Poor Cell

Hanna/Prospero in gray tanktop and sweatpants clutching a book, with a guard in white shirt, black tie and police hat behind her on the left, the inmate playing Calaban in black jacket and black stocking cap behind her on the rightWomen in prison. It served as a metaphor for Rome in Phyllida Lloyd's staging of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and continued as a thematically resonant setting for her version of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. With The Tempest, however, metaphor has been turned inside out as the play serves to conclude what turns out to be the story of a single prisoner told through Shakespeare's canon. Taken as a whole, the series demonstrates Shakespeare’s redemptive power while showcasing the incredible, multilayered acting talents of Harriet Walter along with those of her fellow actresses. Donmar Warehouse’s production of The Tempest, which ran in London last fall and is now playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, is the last installment of Lloyd’s "Shakespeare Trilogy" with Walter as Brutus, Henry IV, and, now, Prospero, though—unbeknownst to the audience—she has been Hanna all along. For the complete review, click here.

Hal in black tanktop and gray sweats, with green fingerless gloves and an olive green sleeve on the elbow of her right arm, lifts a crown made of aluminum drink cans onto her head.Posted in tandem with
Henry IV: Higher Crime

Phyllida Lloyd returns to the women's prison setting for the second installment of her Shakespeare trilogy, Henry IV (combining the two parts into one). She uses many of the same cast members, most notably Harriet Walter, who played Brutus in Caesar, playing the title character in Henry. However, much of what made Lloyd's Julius Caesar so intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically scintillating is missing in her Henry IV. The prison setting only serves this play in an allegorical context rather than in a social context as the Caesar production did so brilliantly. [Catch up with mustard, working through our backlog of reviews of the past year, revisitting these productions with benefit of hindsight and experience. For the complete review, click here]

On Stage: As You Like It

In The World of Refugees

Orlando in blue denim shirt jacket, olive green long-sleeve tee, brown slacks and brown shoes is on one knee as Rosalind in her Ganymede disguse of red vest, denim shirt, pink slacks and brown patent leather shoes talks in his face. Celia, in a plaid country dress, sits on the stage in the background.As You Like It is a call to action,” Director Gaye Talor Upchurch writes in her program notes for her Folger Theatre production of the play, an introductory sentence that seems to be prophetic given the coincidental timing of this production against the backdrop of real-life drama being staged down the street in Washington, D.C. However, Upchurch is thinking in general terms. Her goal is that we, the audience, will join in “this celebration of both the ridiculous and the sublime nature of love.” A juxtaposition of sublime and ridiculous may be her starting point in staging this play, but what is sublime and what is ridiculous easily get twisted in translation. Thus we get an As You Like It which, by the intermission, is about to sink under heavy-handed theatricality and restrained acting but suddenly gets buoyed by individual performances and an audience-engaging spirit that send the play sailing to a happy ending, Hyman and all. For the complete review, click here.

Shylock in black vest, white shirt, and black and white-striped tie holds his knife aloft but looks off to the side toward Portia, his hand on the orange-prison-garb clad Antonio (back to us) as Bassanio and Gratziano, heads down, brace Antonio.On Stage: The Merchant of Venice

The Perspectives of Just Deserts

This is a Merchant of Venice that illustrates how Shylock is both a victim and a product of racism. This is a Merchant of Venice that depicts Antonio as the epitome of Christianity—and I mean that as complimentary to him. This is an American Shakespeare Center (ASC) Actors' Renaissance Season production (actors with no directors or production team mounting a play with a week's rehearsal) of William Shakespeare's play that lacks cohesiveness as some portrayals end up wandering in the wilderness, but a couple of bit parts rise to the topmost elevations of great Blackfriars Playhouse moments. To continue, click here.

Beatrice in blue party dress and white gloves, Benedick in black uniform with red piping on the pants, both facing each other nose to nose with hands on hips.On Stage: Much Ado About Nothing

A Perfect Rom–Imperfect Com

Tears? Are my tear ducts really stinging as I watch William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing? It’s not from laughing so hard. It’s not from cringing too much (though I did a lot of cringing before this moment). These tears are the romantic kind—OK, the chick-flick kind—the result of a perfect consummation of Shakespeare’s script, from-the-heart acting, and fluid pacing under the direction of Abigail Isaac Fine. Fine teams sublimely with Shakespeare in such sterling moments in this NextStop Theatre Company's 1960s South Beach–set production; too often, however, she doesn’t trust the Bard, and though she’s given the tools for a truly superlative Much Ado About Nothing, the production stumbles as much as it soars. To continue this review, click here.

Richard in black shirt and pants kneeling on a table grabs the throat of Hastings standing at one end of the table--he in red dinner jacket and gray leather pants--as Stanley with briefcast and wearing a grey three-piece suit with turtleneck sweater shirt, looks on in consternation. The stairway and wood-paneled wall is int he background.On Stage: Richard III

This Point in Time

[Catch up with mustard, working through our backlog of reviews of the past year, revisitting these productions with benefit of hindsight and experience.]

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's production of Richard III last fall (which we attended three days before Election Day) was not specifically political in nature—its setting was a modern upscale gangland culture—but it was hard to not hear and see a Trump at work in Richard, deliciously played by Derek Wilson. Nevertheless, the more fascinating character in this production was Sir William Catesby (Sheffield Chastain): fascinating in how and why the character is constructed the way he is and how he reflects in more people—and more dangerously—than does a Richard III. For the complete review, click here.

Commentary: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The Birth of a Man

In quotes: "Whatever affects one directly, affects all inderectly."I was in the fourth grade. By virtue of math, I know I was 9 years old, almost a month from my 10th birthday. My life’s timeline is a locale line because my dad was an Air Force chaplain and we moved every 2 1/2 years; thus, it’s the place that dates this story: a small ranch house in the officer’s housing area on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. It must have been early evening, probably before dinner. In fact, I might have been wondering when we would be eating as I came out of my room and walked down the hallway to the living room to find my distraught parents watching the television. Mom was crying; Dad was pained. “What happened?” I asked. “Martin Luther King was shot,” my mom said. I’m pretty sure, being that I was 9, my next question would have been: “Was he killed?” He was. Then came the key question: “Who is Martin Luther King?” The rest of my recollection of that night, as significant as the events would be for the rest of my life, is murky. To continue, click here.

Volumnia, short gray hair, white jacket blouse, gray pants, grasps Martius's arms as she looks up at him and he, in gray suit, down sheepishly at her.On Stage: Coriolanus

One That Hath Always Loved the People

I could write my entire review of the Red Bull Theater's production of William Shakespeare's Coriolanus on Patrick Page playing Menenius as a Dixie politician. Not only was this the highlight of this intimate, bare-stage but overly busy production at the Barrow Street Theatre (though Page was not alone in giving a sterling performance), his portrayal drew out the many shades of this fascinating character who is the antithesis to the bull-in-a-china-shop Martius (played here by Dion Johnstone) and, thus, foil as a political archetype. Naturally, we can apply such political archetypes to today’s all-too-real political stages across the globe. However, the gorgeous conundrum of Coriolanus is that though this Jacobean play about the early days of the Rome Republic can be easily updated to modern issues, it doesn’t automatically mean we can apply Shakespeare’s text as a barometer of right or wrong, good or evil, or even success or failure in government.For the complete review, click here.

Sylvia in purple renaissance dress holds her hand out to the puzzle Thurio in ridiculous bulging pants high on the leg, purple stockings and the rest of his clothes--pants, jacket, hat, a combination of blues and yellowsOn Stage: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Truth in the Matter

Some William Shakespeare plays are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. The Two Gentlemen of Verona is in that last camp. Long the play I most maligned among Shakespeare’s solo works, The Two Gentlemen of Verona has been moving steadily up the charts in my estimation, production by production. Now comes the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) Hungry Hearts Tour version, and even if Two Gents is not a Top 10 Shakespeare play, this production makes it seem so. It does so by being pure and simple under a director, Jemma Alix Levy, who recalls this play, the first Shakespeare she ever saw, through the eyes of a 7-year-old. For the complete review, click here.

Mercutio in gold sattin pants with gold and black patterned felt jacket and drapery, cut leather black vest, big gold bows for a belt, and white fluffy shirt stands with his left arm perched on the head of Benvolio, who's leaning with his right arm on Mercutio's hilt and left fist on his own hip and wearing a blue-patterend pants and shirt with leath gloves hanging in his beltOn Stage: Romeo and Juliet

There’s a First Time for Everything

What resonance reverberates in Mercutio’s famous shout upon receiving Tybalt’s fatal sword thrust: “A plague o’both the houses!" That's because this Mercutio in the American Shakespeare Center's Hungry Hearts Tour production of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is unlike any I've seen before, not because of how well he's played (though Cordell Cole plays him superbly) nor because he's presented outlandishly (he's not). Simply put, Mercutio is a welcome guest at Capulet's party, and in this Benjamin Curns–helmed production we see how much Mercutio’s social status alters the dynamics of what comes after. This is one of several significant examples of Curns’ thorough scrutiny of Shakespeare’s script, finding not-so-hidden-but-too-often-overlooked treasures and exploring their consequences through the finely honed performances of his talented cast. For the complete review, click here.

2016 In Review

A Prosperous Year, Despite Being So Rotten

2016 was a bummer—except for theater in general and Shakespeare in particular. It was the year of Verona, though Shakespeare proved his relevance to 2016 with many of his plays, even without heavy adaptation or cuts. Meanwhile, a new adaptation of 1984 revealed that George Orwell was more accurately prophetic than we had realized (or wanted to believe). For pure entertainment, we saw big-hit wonders from both Bedlam and Fiasco, and one of our favorite playhouses, the Blackfriars, attained new heights in consistent excellence across three different companies of actors over the calendar year. Our own theater calendar started in January with a fun take on murder, mayhem, and death in Shakespeare. It ended this month with a spiritually uplifting medieval mystery play. Throughout the year our ongoing theatrical experiences helped us cope with something of a rotten year. For the complete summary and ranking of all our theatrical moments of the year, click here.

Gill in simple green shirt and orange dress with a red-patterned apron, hugs the sheep in a wooden cradle.On Stage: The Second Shepherds' Play

The Spirit of Christmas Past

Where else, other than a children's Christmas pageant, do you get off-kilter musical performances inspiring great applause, shepherds behaving badly, and a nativity scene with bowing sheep? A medieval mystery play, of course: specifically The Second Shepherds' Play, which the Folger Consort, the Folger Shakespeare Library's early music ensemble-in- residence, is staging with some of the Washington, D.C., theater scene's best actors. This was my first experience with a medieval mystery play, not only a delight intellectually but also, thanks to its blending the Christmas story with a tale of grifter shepherds and interlacing ancient seasonal carols, spiritually uplifting and a real tickler of a show.For the complete review, click here.

Shylock in a red quilt-like tunik,  black academic robe and red hat and wearing a brown mask with large white mustache and shaggy eyebrows holds a small account book in left hand and grabs the aqua blue tunic of Bassanio, who leans backward with arms spread.On Stage: The Merchant of Venice

Truth in a Commedia Rendering of Shylock

How you react to the notion of a commedia dell’arte production of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice depends on your attitude toward this, Shakespeare’s most controversial play and its centerpiece Jewish character, Shylock. However, this production by Faction of Fools meets none of those expectations, no matter your feelings about the play. Rather, it will suprise the play's naysayers and surpass any and all anticipation of the play's fans. This production reaches the realm of revelation, elevating Shakespeare’s text into something both pure and majestic, despite its simple staging and silly slapstick elements. I did not expect to see Shakespeare’s hand so clearly in the composition of this play through the commedia form; and while I expected great performances and have much respect for Matthew Pauli, who plays Shylock, I did not expect such moving character portrayals, let alone one of the most fully fleshed Shylocks I've ever encountered, one that makes you feel for the man rather than the Jew. For the complete review, click here.

The First Folio, opened to the title page, in a glass case through which we can see a crowd of people in the exhibit, and a descriptive sign on the case titled "The Title Page."Shakespeare News: The Folger Library

First Folio's Blockbuster Tour Comes Home

This was a rarity: a rare book going on tour. How do you make a book compelling? Would anybody but bibliophiles care? These were real questions the Folger Library and its partner, the Cincinnati Museum Center, asked themselves when they started planning a tour of First Folios to every state and territory this year. However, the First Folio is not just any rare book; it is an inherently compelling book. It garnered celebrity status wherever it went on its 71,000-mile journey, seen by a half million people. And now, the 18 First Folios that made that trek have come home to roost for one last exhibit: an exhibit about the touring exhibit and the largest-ever public display of First Folios.For the complete story, click here.

Firk in tan knit cap, white blousey shirt, brown vest with multicolored fringe ribbons holds out his left hand with finger touching thumbOn Stage: The Shoemaker's Holiday

All Decked Out and Dekker, Too

Simon Eyre started sounding vaguely familiar. He is a shoemaker who becomes the Lord Mayor of London in Thomas Dekker's play The Shoemaker's Holiday. The character is based on a historical figure (not a shoemaker but a clothes distributor) of the early 15th century, and as he describes in vivid imaginary detail how he will be received by the king in a forthcoming meeting, I realized where I'd seen his kind before: in William Shakespeare's Henry IV. With Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff already a huge hit in London, it's only natural that Dekker would try to ride Shakespeare's creative coattails by presenting his own fat influence peddler, even tapping into a legendary gregarious local figure—as Shakespeare did with Falstaff (nee, Sir John Oldcastle)—and make him the star of his new comedy about London city life, The Shoemaker's Holiday, first staged in 1599. Hollywood does this kind of thing all the time. This specific moment is part of the larger picture of why the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is venturing into staging works by Shakespeare's contemporaries: it goes beyond revealing the influences on the Bard to unveiling the greater context of Shakespeare's profession at the time he practiced it. For the complete review, click here.

Commentary: Locker Room Talk and Sexual Assault

To Whom Should I Complain?

Rape is a key plot point in what might be the first play William Shakespeare penned. Rape is a key plot point in what probably was his last play. Across his canon, Shakespeare addresses sexual violence and abuse, even in one play conjoining that issue with the sphere of politics. Watching the firestorm sparked by revelation of Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” moment, I, naturally, turned to Shakespeare for his opinion. Shakespeare might be over 400 years old, but he still is keenly tied into the zeitgeist and eerily prescient of current events. And he does have some insightful and incisive things to say about sexual assault. For the complete commentary, click here.

Bardroom

Gender Politics in Staging Shakespeare

The Bardroom debuts with a conversation prompted by an article in the Wall Street Journal claiming that identity politics have overtaken the arts. The article singled out Emma Rice of the Shakespeare's Globe in London establishing a standard of 50-50 gender casting for all plays in that theater. A Shakespeareances.com reader wanted my take on such an edict and the reassignment of gender for roles in Shakespeare's plays. For her question, my response, and contributions from other readers, click here.
[New contribution November 1.]