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Last Update:
November 24, 2019


Shakespeare Plays
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What's new on Shakespeareances.com

Belgian singer/pianist/composer Caroll Vanwelden and her jazz interpretations of Shakespeare Sonnets has been added to the Web Links page.

Bard on the Boards Updates

Theater at Monmouth
Silicon Valley Shakespeare
Shakespeare & Company

Merced Shakespearefest
Lincoln Center White Light Festival
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
National Players
Annapolis Shakespeare Company
American Players Theatre
Southwest Shakespeare Company
National Theatre
NT Life
California Shakespeare Theater
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
Kentucky Shakespeare
Volcano Theatre Company
Stratford Festival
Brave Spirits
American Shakespeare Center
Shaw Festival
GableStage at the Biltmore
Montford Park Players
Millbrook Playhouse
EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
Apocryphal Shakespeare Company

News and Anouncements

Riverside Theatre—Beer Adds Incentive for Improv Class

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory—Grant Funds Performance Intern Program

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

Vanity Fair: Blinded By the Dark

A Two Woman Hamlet: What's My Clothesline?

Henry IV, Part One: Royalty and Loyalty in the DNA

The Merry Wives of Windsor: I'm Just Saying

Anne Page Hates Fun: A Flamingo Takes Flight

Richard III: The Tortured Path to Redemption

Romeo and Juliet: 1 Plus 1 Sums Up with the Power of One

The Winter's Tale: A Sad Tale or a Merry Shall It Be

King Lear: The Way It Begins Promises the End

The Tempest: The Power of Imagination, Mind over Magic

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

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Review and Interview

On Stage: Richard III

Crowning Chutzpah with Crutches

Production photo of Richard, in black unbuttoned Renaissance jacket and bround pants, leaning on his two crutches, standing by the shrouded body of Henry VI. The floor is dirt, a barrel is in the background, and a skull is suspended in a glass box hanging from the ceiling.The stage, hemmed in on three sides by blackish metallic walls, is bare except for a steel barrel at the back and a shovel off to the side. A skull inside a glass box hangs from the center ceiling. A woman wearing a white shroud, bent under the wearying weight of a tragic life but fiercely determined to not yet die, shuffles across the stage. This ghostly figure finishes her passage, and the theater lights go out. When the stage lights come back up, a grave has opened up near the front of the dirt-covered floor. We wait. Richard pops out of the grave like a delighted Dick-in-the-box.“There’s a different Richard every night,” says Aaron Monaghan, who plays the title character in DruidShakespeare’s production of William Shakespeare’s Richard III at John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater as part of the Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival. With a glorious command of Shakespeare’s verse that he sometimes plays like a jazz musician’s approach to a Mozart score, Monaghan presents a Richard living in the moment: his moment, the character's moment, and the real Richard III's moment. “Literally, when I pop my head up, I don’t really know what way it’s going to come out.” For the complete review, click here.

Interview: An "Endlessly Fascinating" Richard III

DruidShakespeare's Aaron Monaghan
Channels a Memory and the Real Richard

In an exlusive interview with Shakespeareances.com, Aaron Monaghan describes how the ghosts of Antony Sher and the historical King Richard factor into his performance of Shakespeare's iconic, monarchal villain. We discuss the Ireland-based DruidShakespeare's approach to Shakespeare, the actor's night-to-night approach to Richard, and Richard III's haunting approach to politics on both sides of the Atlantic. For the complete interview, click here.


Commentary

As Flies to Wanton Boys
Are We to the Gods

Teddy bear in Nationals uniform sits on a hotel bed watching the baseball game on a TV perched on a dresser across the room.Attending a World Series has been high on our bucket list for decades. When our Washington Nationals evolved into contenders, we became annual season ticket holders expressly to get priority seating and discounts for postseason games. We were in the stands for the team’s tragic meltdowns in the division series of 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017. Tonight, finally, the World Series comes to Washington, D.C. And this morning, as I write this, Sarah and I are on an airplane heading for Honolulu, Hawaii. We’ll be on O'ahu through next week. This is not a trade-off of one paradise for another, I assure you. Instead, we’re at the mercy of, and paying devotion to, the baseball gods. And so are the Washington Nationals, I dare say. For the complete commentary, click here.

The Bardroom

Edgar in only a loin cloth around his waist and hand up, kneels with Lear, in simple burlap-like rope, one hand on the groound,the other around Edgar's shoulderKing Lear's Sad Time:
What Must We Obey?

A reader, after watching the Anthony Hopkins portrayal of King Lear on Netflix, puzzles over the play's last quatrain, which happens to be the only passage in William Shakespeare's entire canon that I've memorized. To read our discussion in The Bardroom, click here. And join in!

Commentary: The Comeback

A Tragedy Overtakes a Blissful Comedy

Sarah, gorgeous as ever, stands in the middle of the Folger's Great Hall. Her "brain" is a red Washington Nationals purse hanging over her shoulder down to her waist.Now to answer several pressing questions. How is my wife, Sarah, doing? Why has Shakespeareances.com lay fallow for more than three months? What’s next? And, perhaps the primary question for readers of Shakespeareances.com, what was William Shakespeare’s most popular play the past year? These questions all are interrelated because Shakespeareances.com resides at the intersection of all things Shakespeare and all things life. Not all the answers are within my grasp, but as Shakespeare does, we can present life’s pressing questions, and do so by starting with a stupid joke.To continue reading this update, click here.

On Stage: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Digging Up Shakespeare Gold in Alaska

Photograph of the outdoor Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre stage, with the wood facade Merry Wives set, ramps into the audience in chairs on the ground and platforms. Trees in the backgroundWilliam Shakespeare coined so many famous phrases that at least one or two popped into your head as you read this sentence, maybe four and then a fifth. Some readers might already have left off this review altogether to recite dozens more. I bet, though, that one particular 2 1/2-word phrase hasn’t yet entered any readers' minds as a famous Shakespeare quote, even though it can be one of the funniest three words in Western literature. “A buck-basket?” Granted, conditions have to be just right for this phrase to attain immortality, and in this Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre production of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, conditions create a perfect storm of laughter. On an outdoor stage in a stockade-like, 200-seat theater surrounded by skyscraping pines on the University of Alaska–Fairbanks campus, a hardy company of actors performs in the universal light of the almost-midnight sun, presenting a slap-happy but serious-edged Merry Wives, audacious in presentation but textually pure in execution. For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: Henry IV

Tom Hanks as Falstaff; And Vice Versa

Production photo of Falstaff weilding a bent, hacked swoard as Poins and Hal sit at a table watching.When I mention seeing the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of William Shakespeare's Henry IV, the first question that comes my way is “How was Tom Hanks as Falstaff?” The query generally carries an attitude mingling hope with suspicion. Movie stars, even the most decorated (as Hanks is with two Oscars and three other nominations), seldom make good Shakespearean actors or good stage actors or, even more seldom, good Shakespearean stage actors. This being Hanks, who seems such a good guy and is unquestionably a pro, you hope he proves the exception. I’ll answer that here right off. Hanks is a good Falstaff, a performance that reminds us he got his professional start with Shakespeare roles at the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. Nevertheless, I learned many Henry IVs ago that a good or even a great Falstaff does not a good Henry IV make without an equally strong or stronger Prince Hal or Henry IV. As larger than life a character as Falstaff may be, his part does not make up the sum of the rest of the play. For the complete review, click here.


A Weekend at the Blackfriars Playhouse

Production photo by Lindsey Walters of The Bear with silver claw talking to the audienceOn Stage: 16 Winters, or The Bear's Tale

Reflecting on Shakespeare
In a House of Mirrors

Mary Elizabeth Hamilton's new play has two titles, 16 Winters, or The Bear's Tale. Note that the latter is not a subtitle relegated to parenthesis. This play features two distinct but intertwined tracks, a story about 16 winters and a tale told by a bear. Its most engaging relationship, though, is with another play, William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. This is the second offering in the American Shakespeare Center's ambitious Shakespeare's New Contemporaries initiative to solicit new plays that pair with each of the 38 plays in the traditional Shakespeare canon. 16 Winters, or The Bear's Tale sets an exemplary standard while the production offers three paths to satisfaction: Hamilton's clever script and its perceptive themes, the play's carnival house-of-mirrors reflection on The Winter's Tale, and one heckuva cast.For the complete review, click here.

Production photo by Marek K. Photography of the bear sniffing at the blanketed baby with Antigonus on the right side waving his arms.On Stage: The Winter's Tale

Watching the Cat's Cradle Unravel

Antigonus has just exited with the newborn daughter of Leontes and Hermione, king and queen of Sicily in William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. Leontes believes with zero evidence that his best friend, Polixenes, King of Bohemia, is the baby's father and has imprisoned his wife and intended to outright kill the kid. When court counselor Antigonus intervenes, Leontes orders him to abandon the baby in some wilderness. “Blessing against this cruelty fight on thy side, poor thing, condemn'd to loss!” Antigonus says to the baby. Leontes softens in Ronald Román-Meléndez's interpretation of the role in the American Shakespeare Center's production at the Blackfriars Playhouse. He appears to be reconsidering his edict and, perhaps, all of his actions that have brought him to this point. He glances around the theater's audience, pausing on faces and steeling his resolve as he does so. “No, I'll not rear another's issue,” he says, a conviction he seems to draw from us. We have become complicit in the still unfolding tragedy. This production has three things going for it: The way it converses with its companion new play, 16 Winters, or The Bear's Tale, the way Director Kevin Rich uses the Blackfriars playing conditions to get us inside Leontes (and on his side), and one heckuva cast. For the complete review, click here.

Production photo by Marek K Photography of Dromio of Syracuse eating two carrots as Antipholus of Syracuse watches.On Stage: The Comedy of Errors

A Play to Take Your Breath Away

Topher Embrey is panting as he walks on to the Blackfriars Playhouse stage during intermission. The American Shakespeare Center's tour troupe is performing music during the break in the play as patrons line up at the bar cart on stage, mill about the playhouse, or rock out with these top-tier musicians. Embry is the preshow and intermission emcee. "Whoa!" he gasps, catching his breath. "People ask me, Topher, do you work out? No, I do Comedy of Errors." Like all good comedy, this joke is based on truth. Embry is playing Dromio of Ephesus in this American Shakespeare Center production of William Shakespeare's early comedy, and both he and his counterpart twin, Annabelle Rollison as Dromio of Syracuse, are getting an aerobic workout with this show. In fact, the entire cast engages in the production's frantic physicality, and as fun as the play itself is, and as fresh as Director Desdemona Chiang's take is, what makes this production so hugely entertaining is one heckuva cast. For the complete review, click here.


Photo of the back of Sarah in the hospital room, taken from the  head with multiple colored wires stringing across the pillow.Commentary: Time's Passages

My Love's Labor Now My Winter's Tale

My wife grew old this week. It happened in seconds, about the time it takes William Shakespeare to span 16 years in The Winter's Tale. The day it happened, in fact, was a very Winter's Tale kind of day for me. I had been pondering posting something this month about our current condition: where we are relative to Sarah's medical issues, my Shakespeare Canon Project (42 Plays, 42 Theaters, One Year), and the lifestyle consequences of both (i.e., dwindling finances). I left off that narrative back in December with Sarah in a perpetual state of debilitating medical mystery and me in a perpetuating state of overwhelm. Shakespeare's sledgehammering relevance hit me hard this week as I slid from Love's Labour's Lost to The Winter's Tales, literally and figuratively, experiencing an inexorable slide away from the songs of Apollo on the wings of Time and realizing how, with The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare poignantly portrays lifetime. For my commentary, click here.

Production photo of Berowne standing on a library study table as the other lords gather around.Love's Labour's Lost

Building a History

When you walk into the Folger Shakespeare Library's theater for this production of William Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, you might think you are next door. The set resemble's the Folger's famous reading room, a perfect setting for a play about a yearning for learning, a feast of words, noble pursuits of arts and culture, and poetic ponderings on love and beauty. Director Vivienne Benesch also channels another spirit of the Folger experience: a space of play and community accessible to people of all social substrata, and she and her gifted actors adroitly blend the play's elegiac tones, satirical streaks, and slapstick elements into a wholly Folger-like embodiment of fun, passion, beauty, and humanity. For the complete review, click here.

Production photo of Arcite and Paloman up on the ledge looking down at Emilia in the garden below, her attendant in the backgorund.The Two Noble Kinsmen

It's a Mad, Man's Mad World

Trust can be an elusive thing, even if William Shakespeare's name is attached. Such is the case with The Two Noble Kinsmen, which Shakespeare at the end of his career cowrote with John Fletcher. Even the two actors playing the two noble kinsmen headed into the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival production's preview performance unsure if they could trust this verse-heavy, melodramatic mashup of Greek mythology, Chaucer romance, and crazy country bumpkins. Trust the play they did and earned a rewarding audience reaction. Now, on opening night, it is the audience reaping the rewards of a talented cast under the insightful direction of Elizabeth Swain delivering a poignantly funny, unrelentingly current rendering of this rarely staged, much-maligned tragicomedy. However, when performed by skilled practitioners such as the Kingsmen Shakespeare Company, based at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, what emerges from within the play's obtuse language and archaic set pieces is a depiction of human nature at its silliest. The Two Noble Kinsmen further explores the greatest universal truth prevailing through time from the prehistoric world through Medieval society and the Elizabethan enlightenment to #MeToo awareness: guys are such guys. For the complete review, click here.

Hamlet

Deacon Blues

This is an Original Pronunciation production of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, but as we're in Baltimore, I'm leading off with race. Baltimore has been enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, taking up arms against its sea of troubles as centuries-long fissures between whites and people of color erupted four years ago with the uprising that followed Freddie Gray's death in police custody. In this community context, the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory through shrewed casting choices has achieved something profound, not merely a black Hamlet nor merely an OP Hamlet but a Baltimore Hamlet, a company of actors displaying cohesive, multiracial artistry and energy while performing a standard of Shakespeare singular to this city. For the complete review, click here.

Production photo of Prospera speaking, Mirnada sleeping, and Ariel leaning on the stage listeningThe Tempest

Insubstantial Pageant? Hardly

Mistress 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.

Production photo from American Shakespeare Center's Arden of Faversham at the Blackfriars Playhouse: Moseby and Alice kiss over Arden's bloody body lying on the floor.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.

Production photo by Will Kirk Photography of Iachimo sitting up in trunk with big grinCymbeline

Shakespeare Establishes the Genre Farce

With 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. 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. Given the disdain I hear and read about the play, the serious approaches I see, and Cymbeline's position 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.