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A website for anybody* with a passion for Shakespeare

Last Update:
January 21, 2018


Shakespeare Plays
Popularity Index


What's new on Shakespeareances.com

Classic Stage Company (CSC) in New York City has been added to Theater Links as well as Bard on the Boards.

Bard on the Boards Updates

Lit Moon Theatre
Shakespeare Forum

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory
Lincoln Center Theater

Babes with Blades
Marin Shakespeare Company

Vermont Shakespeare Festival

Steel City Shakespeare Center

Independent Shakespeare Company

Hamlet Isn't Dead

Creation Theatre
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

Shakespeare Theatre Company

Bedlam

Theatre Y

Shakespeare in Detroit
Shakespeare Orange County

Long Beach Shakespeare Company

Millbrook Playhouse

Olney Theatre Center
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
New York Classical Theatre
Shakespearemachine
Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative

Los Angeles Drama Club

News and Anouncements

Oregon Shakespeare Festival—Cancer Claims Veteran Actor G. Val Thomas

Idaho Shakespeare Festival—"Clowning Around!" Tops Semester of Classes

Shakespeare Theatre Company—Supreme Court Justice Hears Hamlet Case

BAM—Fifth Avenue Store Windows Honor BAM

Bard on the Beach—Costume Contest Engages Email Subscribers

Long Beach Shakespeare Company—"Inspirational" Artistic Director Borgers Dies

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

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

The Taming of the Shrew: On the Matter of Political Correctness

As You Like It; What Love's Got to Do with It

Measure for Measure: From Foreplay to a Happy Climax

King Lear: The Magnitude of the Mundane

Timon of Athens: Well, Not Really

The School for Lies: A Schooling in Truth

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 Caricature of Shakespeare with suitcase, iPad and iPod A message for snobs only: click here

On Stage: Hamlet

Crafting Madness

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 refereeWilliam 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.

On Stage: Twelfth Night

Live Theater As Theater of Lives

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

Benedick in green renaissance vest jacket over white shirt leans out from behind a vine-covered post next to two laughing women with three kids on the gallant stools in front of him, one boy looking up at him.On Stage: Much Ado About Nothing

At the Heart of a Still-Beating Comedy

After seeing 18 stagings and two cinematic versions of William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, I go into the play with a mental checklist, and did so for the American Shakespeare Center's current production at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. Is Claudio's dramatic arc, from smitten soldier to scammed fool to incredible jerk to repentant husband, believable? Check. Does Don John's scam of Don Pedro and Claudio work? Check. Is the gulling of Benedick and Beatrice fun? Check plus. Do we empathize with anybody other than Hero at the miscarried wedding? Leonato, Claudio, and Don Pedro—whoa, triple check. Is the setting apropos to the play's plot and theme? Renaissance, so check. Beatrice and Benedick aren't on this checklist because there's never been much new to report on them as long as the actors are up to the task, and I figured that was a given with Allison Glenzer and David Anthony Lewis, considering their American Shakespeare Center (ASC) track records. Yet, I was genuinely surprised when these two actors turned in such incredibly fresh takes on the famous couple to make this production a plus-plus-plus staging of Shakespeare's great rom-com. To continue, click here.

On Stage: Love’s Labour’s Lost

When Love Speaks

Ferdinand, dressed in white cloak over silver courtier knee breeches, kneels on one knee, paper in hand, looking at men and women sitting on stools next to a wood wall on the edge of the stage. In the background is the Blackfriars black-trimmed tiring stage, with wood door, a tapestry, and vines handing off the balcony trim.Love’s Labour’s Lost is the ultimate Shakespeare snob play. It features some of the canon’s most flowery verses and a plot centered on witty repartee among a cast of gender-pairing royal courtiers juxtaposed with a half-dozen country folk and one bizarre, language-addicted, romantic Spaniard. The obtuse nature of its comic verses means the play is infrequently staged compared to Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, and many productions gut it and dress the play in borrowed art, from jazz to boy band pop. The American Shakespeare Center (ASC), however, approaches Love's Labour's Lost head-on, not only embracing its language, personage, and period, but using all three to construct genuinely Shakespearean gut-busting entertainment that inspires multigenerational laughs (as young as 6ish) from all comers to the playhouse. While Shakespeare might have been writing a play for snobs, he most definitely wrote a comedy about snobs. For the complete review, click here.

The characters are arranged in a diamond, all dressed in renaissance costumes, the king in red cloak and jewelled crown at the front with his hands crossed, York to the left with blue patterned jacked, gold trim and lace collar, Richard to the right in red and black armor, Magarat above in a gold dress and crown matching Henry'sOn Stage: The Fall of King Henry (aka Henry VI, Part 3)

No Bed of Roses

William Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3, prominently features a queen. So, of course, the cast in the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) production was destined to play a song by the rock band Queen in its preshow music. Two songs, actually: “We Will Rock You” interlaced with “Another One Bites the Dust.” The latter song is thematically apt to the play, in which a lot of people bite the dust. The other song better fits this production, which kicks its can all over the place. To continue, click here.

Mercutio in gold and white shirt, black pants and boots with a sabre in his right hand and sword in his left parries with Tybalt, in blue toga, black braw and yoga pants kneeling on the ground with a sword thrusting in her right hand and dagger in her left. In the background other characters watch on a sets of wood steps and balconies.On Stage: Romeo and Juliet

Fight Time

Violence often is the easiest answer for those in confrontational situations and generally the most attractive option for those watching. Whether prompted by anger, honor, fear, revenge, pride, ideology, or, ironically, love, striking others (or oneself) with fists, blade, poison, or other weapons offers immediate satisfaction. That, however, blinds the perpetrators and enablers to longer-term consequences that incur a level of pain and difficulty far outweighing the initial gratification. Lacking the ability to fully know those consequences before striking the blow, we are left with parables to give us a glimpse. William Shakespeare gives us such a parable with Romeo and Juliet, and Raphael Massie, with his brashly hip production for the Elm Shakespeare Company in New Haven, Connecticut, expands the play's effectiveness from that mere glimpse to a visceral understanding of violence's full effects.To continue, click here.

Puck in black jacket, pants and shoes decorated in flourescent swirls and with little goat horns in her head crouches next to a crouching Oberon, long blond hair, black and flourescent green cloak and pants, with the white rock set in the backgroundOn Stage: A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Dream Dream Celebrates a Waking Dream

I had nothing with which to dab the tears from my eyes. They streamed down my cheeks to my beard. Crying at plays is something I do on occasion: especially William Shakespeare's King Lear. But here I'm watching Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, we're only in Act III, Scene 1, and I'm bawling from the accumulative effects of laughing since even before the play's first line was spoken. With inventive readings of Shakespeare's lines and metatheater elements, this dream of a Dream celebrates the opening of Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's new Otto M. Budig Theater. It is a fabulous new house, too, and as we settled into our seats before the show, I was prepared to focus my rave review on the company's new digs. Then, the company itself launches into rave-up hilarity in A Midsummer Night's Dream that shows off all that their new play space has to offer. For the complete review, click here.

Arial, in silver leaotard, blue shreddy fabric as a shawl, and blue makeup across her forehead and down by her eyes, holds onto a rope around a real tree trunk and leans out with a ship's sail behind herOn Stage: The Tempest

The Palpable Presence of the Missing Third

Ariel flits from tree to tree—real trees. You hear dogs barking and feel the breeze blowing, both on cue. And when Prospero says that "The time 'twixt six and now must by us both be spent most preciously," in that moment in this environment you are sharing something more than William Shakespeare's words with his original audience; you are sharing in their time. These are among the delights of seeing The Tempest in Shakespeare & Company's new Roman Garden Theatre. Nevertheless, the production's most enticing aspect is how Prospero and his daughter, Miranda, literally gnash at each other like wolves in one moment and in the next embrace as if their lives depended on their love. An outdoor theater-in-the-rectangle can infuse this play about magic with real magic, but inevitably, insightful readings by veteran Shakespearean actors following the lead of an intelligent director are what keep Shakespeare's scripts ever-current, ever-evolving, always interesting.For the complete review, click here.