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Last Update:
February 19, 2019


Shakespeare Plays
Popularity Index


What's new on Shakespeareances.com

Actors Theatre of Columbus in Ohio has been added to Theater Links and Bard on the Boards.

Bard on the Boards Updates

Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum
American Shakespeare Center

Babes With Blades

Shakespeare in Delaware Park
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Seattle Shakespeare Company

Tennessee Stage Company

The Public Theater

Signature Theatre

Original Practice Shakespeare Festival

Young Shakespeare Players

News and Anouncements

American Shakespeare Center—McSweeny Unveils First Blackfriars Season

Shakespeare on the Sound—Kids Camps Built around Twelfth Night

A Company of Fools Theatre—Artistic Director Steps Aside for Year to Help Shakespeare in Action Move Into New Space

Red Bull Theater—Short Play Festival Seeks Evil Submissions

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory—Company Delivers Sonnet-Gram Valentines

WSC Avant Bard—Two Woman Hamlet Caps Scripts Festival

First Folio Theatre—Cold Weather Prompts Ticket Discounts

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis—Regional Writers Project Launches

Nebraska Shakespeare—"Female Forward" Season Brings Juno's Swans Into Mainstage Rep

Commentary

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

A Father's Love: Issues with Daddies in Shakespeare

On Stage

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

The Winter's Tale: Finis

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: Two Characters in Search of Their Play

The Gospel at Colonus: A Sermon from the Book of Oedipus

The Great Society: A Shakespearean Tragedy Touches Us All

The Merchant of Venice: Seeking Heroes, We Get Laughter

Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending: Aligning the Fates for Tragical Mirth

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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Richard III

The Tortured Path to Redemption

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

Romeo and Juliet

1 Plus 1 Sums Up with the Power of One

rogram cover of Shakespeare Opera Theatre's Romeo and JulietThe 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 community 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.

The Winter's Tale

A Sad Tale or a Merry Shall It Be

Production pic of Leontes pointing at Paulina holding a basket with the babyThis 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.

King Lear

The Way It Begins Promises the End

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

Timon of Athens

Capitalism Rises and Falls in a Ruin

Sarah Constible, dressed in a blue lace ballgown, is standing before a half-formed stone wall as she delivers Timon's rhetorical primal scream. This Athenian lady, who had lavished her friends and flatterers with expensive gifts and parties and ends up bankrupt and abandoned, unleashes the full force of her fierce anger combined with the riving pain of a person betrayed. Her words cut through the breezy summer air across the width of a nave to clench our guts in a knot. Then she turns and walks away into self-banishment. The next time we see her, she is wearing a dirty fur coat and tattered gown, holes in her hose down to her high heels, ferocity still darting from her eyes and her hair looking as if it were frightened out of its wits. She is pushing a grunged-up shopping cart out of the woods. None of this is in a theater or on a stage, by the way. That's a real remnant of wall Constible is standing behind, a church's nave measures the distance between her and us, and real trees bordering a meadow beyond. This is Shakespeare in the Ruins, not a figurative description but a literal one and the name of the Winnipeg, Manitoba, theater company that stages promenade productions at the stonewall remains of a Trappist monastery south of the city. For the complete review, click here.

In Memoriam: American Shakespeare Festival Theatre

The place I trace all my Shakespeareances to, the American Shakesepare Festival Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut, where I saw my first live Shakespeare play and Fred Gwynne play Sir Toby Belch, burned to the ground this morning. Click here to read the news report.

Much Ado About Nothing

Comedy Rising to the Heights in the Rose

Seeing a William Shakespeare play in a re-creation of an Elizabethan outdoor theater, such as the Rose at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp near Muskegon, Michigan, inspires insights that can significantly expand your Shakespearean understanding. To wit, as Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company's production of Much Ado About Nothing is about to start, it occurs to me that the area for the groundlings resembles a mosh pit at rock concerts. This production gives us two parallel experiences: the play that features several keen performances, and the playhouse that bestows a soul-embracing sense of belonging on those who merely enter its environs. Combine the two and we get a Much Ado About Nothing that's like nothing else I've felt. For the complete review, click here.

2018 in Review and Top 25 + 5 Shakespeareances

The Aggregate Experience

In 2018, for the first time in my 61-year life—attending plays in 44 of those years and now having seen 830 staged productions in that span—I walked out of a play at intermission. It might seem odd to start a commentary about my favorite theater moments of the year with the absolute worst and second worst productions, but it turns out to be instructive of the year I've had: A year in which I traveled coast to coast—corner-to-corner, even—across the North American continent seeing 71 Shakespeare productions at 50 different theaters, plus 12 non-Shakespeare productions. All the good-to-great productions I saw made this year's rankings more difficult than any I've worked out so far. The top spot, however, was an easy choice: a catastrophic failure in production values that should give us all hope for the New Year. For my commentary on the state of Shakespeare in 2018 and my annual rankings, click here.

The Worst is Never the Worst until the Worst

Finding Comfort in Edgar in Times of Woes

“And worse I may be yet: the worst is not so long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’” This line by Edgar in William Shakespeare’s King Lear has been running through my head like a tape loop the past 14 days since my too-close-encounter with a concrete pillar in a parking garage. The deejays of fate (in mythology, the Fates were spinners, you know) would frequently drop into the loop a bit of Gertrude from Hamlet, too: “One woe doth tread upon another’s heel, so fast they’ll follow.” Such a parade of woes, with 76 trombones leading, has me looking to Edgar for inspiration. For the complete commentary, click here.

Cartoon of Shakespeare as a baseball playerSpecial Commentary Update for the All-Star Game

The All-Shakespeare Baseball Team

As we take a break (kind of) from the Shakespeare Canon Project for Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, my 2016 commentary drafting Shakespeare characters for a baseball team has been updated, thanks to my recent experience with a Joan of Arc. To read the full commentary, click here.

Production Photo of MacbethsOn Stage: Macbeth

The Magic Macbeth Show

The show opens with Lady Macbeth taking a child's corpse out of a coffin and hugging it. She's joined by the Weird Sisters. “When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning, or in rain?” the Weird Sisters chant as they raise their sleeves shrouding Lady Macbeth from our view. “Upon the heath, to meet with Macbeth!” and, presto!, Macbeth himself appears from behind the witches’ sleeves where his wife had just been, and he starts engaging in a loud, energetic battle with on-rushing rebel Scots. And there you have it: horror, action, Shakespeare (for the most part), and magic—real magic in this Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller, the latter one-half of the Las Vegas magic team of Penn and Teller. It’s more about the magic, atmosphere, and accessible storytelling than it is about Shakespeare’s text and psychological mystery, but as theatrical entertainment, it’s a thriller. For the complete review, click here.

Photo of Dunyasha and Lopakhin listening for Lubov's arrivalOn Stage: The Cherry Orchard

Unmasking a Masterpiece

Many of us Western theater aficionados think of Anton Chekhov’s plays, such as The Cherry Orchard, as weighty philosophical forays into the tragedy of the human condition. Well, William Shakespeare wrote weighty philosophical forays into the tragedy of the human condition, too, such as Twelfth Night and As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, great comedies all. Chekhov thought he was writing comedies, too—he even cited The Cherry Orchard as partial farce—but something has been lost in the translation, whether lingual, cultural, or theatrical (that last is cause for mistranslations of Shakespeare, as well). Washington, D.C.'s Faction of Fools is trying to recapture Chekhov's comic essence with its commedia dell'arte production of The Cherry Orchard, building on the success of its past such adaptations of Shakespeare and Thornton Wilder. In this instance, while you get the best of each world, commedia and Chekhov, you don't necessarily get the best for both worlds. For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: Titus Andronicus

Some Key Ingredients Missing From Otherwise Delicious Titus

Photo of Aaron and Tamora dancingA Titus Andronicus with no blood and no words; what's the point, right? Well, bloodless is no matter because such a visually based company as Synetic Theater can accomplish all manner of allegorical representations of bloodiness, as this production does from red fabric and red lights to cherry pies. Words, however, are an integral theme for Titus Andronicus as Shakespeare uses highly formalized verse and ritualized language as a metaphorical structure mirroring society's ritual obsession with revenge and violence. Synetic, a movement and dance theater, succeeds in that, too, establishing a formal framework and ritual behaviors within which human behavior runs amok. All that running amok guarantees stellar work from Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili, who plays Tamora, Queen of the Goths, and gives herself one of the most astounding dances I've ever seen on a stage. Yet the production comes up short where it shouldn't: For all its words and ritual, Titus Andronicus contains some of Shakespeare's most emotionally wrenching visual moments that this visual-centric production fails to deliver. For the complete review, click here.