A website for anybody* with a passion for Shakespeare



Last Update:
March 23, 2018

Shakespeare Plays
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What's new on

Review of the American Shakespeare Center's Hamlet at the Blackfriars Playhouse revisited.

Production photos added to review of Richard II at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse.

Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival in Arizona has been added to the Theater Links page and to Bard on the Boards.

Bard on the Boards Updates

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival
St. Ann's Warehouse

Folger Theatre
Taffety Punk
Philadelphia Artists' Collective
Shakespeare by the Sea
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Synetic Theater

Bard's Town

National Theatre Live
Royal Shakespeare Company in CInemas

Ford's Theatre

Arena Stage

Brave Spirits

Harrisburg Shakespeare Company

Southwest Shakespeare Company

Independent Shakespeare Company
Quill Theatre
Media Theatre
Crown City Theatre Company

News and Anouncements

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

BAM—Tony-Winning Binder Tapped to Lead BAM


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

Antony and Cleopatra: The World Is Their Toy Box

Doctor Faustus: The Devil Is in the Details

Peter and the Starcatcher: Such Starstuff As Dreams Are Made On

Julius Caesar: Et tu …?

The Lover / The Collection: Huh? Huh. Mmnn.

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

Love's Labour's Lost: When Love Speaks

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

Romeo and Juliet: Fight Time

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

The Tempest: The Palpable Presence of the Missing Third

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

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


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

Racial Casting and Theatrical Sacrilege

Gender Politics in Staging Shakespeare


A Midsummer Night's Dream: Bottom's Up

The Tempest: A Concoction Strange and Wondrous

Henry VI, Part One: A Great Stake

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

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

And Also

2016 In Review and Top 20 + 10 Shakespeareances

Top 40 Shakespeareances

Plays seen: The Numbers

Find additional Shakespeareances

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

On Stage: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Two Characters in Search of Their Play

Photo of Rosencrantz with palms together looking at Guildenstern next to him, pointiong at Rosencrantz, both in Renaissance-era clothesIn the end, there is nothing. There is our imagination and the lingering effects of a writer's imagination, but there is "no thing," as Hamlet likes to pronounce nothing when he's making a lewd pun. An ending, even one of nothing, needs a beginning—but there's nothing there, neither, except a blank slate for conception. "There is an art to the building up of suspense," says Guildenstern, the opening line of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead—well, actually, the opening line is Rosencrantz repeating "heads" five times as Guildenstern flips coins to him, each coin landing with its head up. No thing in no place. Stoppard doesn't give his play any setting. His staging instructions are “a place without any visible character.” So, the place where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exist is the same place where we exist: In this instance, that's the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia, home of the American Shakespeare Center (ASC) which is staging Stoppard's play—with a dynamic duo in the leads—in tandem with William Shakespeare's Hamlet. For the complete review, click here.

On Stage: The Gospel at Colonus

A Sermon from the Book of Oedipus

Oedipus in blue three-piece suit with yellow and blue diamond tie, sunglasses,an African scarf oer his shoulders, a wood crookstaff in his left hand while he raises the index finger of his right hand.Praise the Lord and Greek theater! Praise WSC Avant Bard! not only for bringing The Gospel at Colonus to the stage in the D.C. region, but for reviving it a year later, too, giving me a chance to take in this theatrically spiritual experience. I was introduced to this—well, what do we call it? play, musical, Pentecostal service?—in a Masters of Humanities class in the mid-1990s when the professor showed us a telecast of it. I was moved by it, but never got the chance to see it in person until WSC Avant Bard mounted its intimate production last year. Unfortunately, I couldn't fit it into my schedule, even though its run was extended. Fortunately, so popular and acclaimed was the show, the company revived it for this season. Second chances are rare gifts indeed, so this time, though my schedule is even more crowded this year, I simply bullied it onto my calendar. Amen to that. For the complete review, click here.

Johnson sitting in a blue-backed chair at his wood desk, hands folded on the desk, speaks to slumping Wilbur Mills in chair, back to us.On Stage: The Great Society

A Shakespearean Tragedy Touches Us All

Lyndon Baines Johnson, played by the incomparable* Jack Willis (*really), walks onto the Fichandler's stage at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. When he was a little boy, he tells us, his daddy took him to the rodeo, and the bull riding fascinated him most. "They released the gate and 2,700 pounds of horns, hooves, and hate exploded into the arena, twisting left and right, bucking up and down," he says. "Everybody gets thrown. Everybody." Some suffered broken backs, some the bull gored, some were killed. "Why would anybody do that?" Willis's LBJ asks rhetorically. The why, he says, was in that one moment in the short ride when young Lyndon could see the cowboy's face. "Maybe it was a trick of the light, but there was such a look of joy, of triumph," he says. "So, check your grip, take a breath, because here we go." And here we go, indeed, into The Great Society, Robert Schenkkan's sequel to his intensely rewarding and much-awarded play, All the Way, which chronicles Johnson's first year in office. The Great Society covers the rest of Johnson's presidency, a four-year bull ride that leaves him eviscerated and two other stars of equal voltage in the political arena killed, in a staging that ends up playing as a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy—for the characters, and for our current times. For the complete review, click here.

Bard on the Boards

And Cinemas, Too

With National Theatre Live (from the National Theatre in London) beginning rebroadcasts of its 2015 production of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch in cinemas this week, and Nicholas Hytner's acclaimed production of Julius Caesar broadcasting in cinemas later this month, I realized a glaring oversight on Though I have reviewed cinema broadcasts from the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company the On Stage section, I have never listed current and upcoming broadcasts on Bard on the Boards. I have now added the titles for all NT Live and RSC in Cinemas broadcasts to Where's Playing What, and the Shakespeare titles (including RSC's Troilus and Cressida) to What's Playing Where. Note that unlike staged productions, these have different run dates according to your location: you need to click on the link to go directly to that broadcast's webpage and from there find the cinemas, dates, and showtimes in your area. As these broadcasts are a valuable resource for seeing these productions if you can't get to Stratford-upon-Avon or London, I will henceforth list newly announced titles under the Bard on the Boards updates in the left column of this Update page. Click here to see the NT Live offerings, and click here to see RSC's titles.

Shylock in black cloak and red skullcap sits on a benchOn Stage: The Merchant of Venice

Seeking Heroes, We Get Laughter

These are kids ages 8–14 staging this production of William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice at the Children's Shakespeare Theatre. That matters little in the production's overall quality, but it matters much in the impression the play leaves. Shakespeare didn't merely write an anti-Semitic or an anti-anti-Semitic play or a play about racism specifically or generally: he wrote a play about bullying, across racial and ethnic divides, across economic divides, across generational divides, and across divides of physical abilities and impairments. And he wrote it as a comedy. Is this a play children should be exposed to, let alone performing, and in a generally hilarious staging at that? Absolutely: These actors see racism, rising numbers of hate crimes, and bullying every day through newscasts, on the Internet, in their communities, and, no doubt, at their schools. They, in fact, probably understand Shakespeare's play better than most adults, do; and some act it better than many professional actors do. For the complete review, click here.

Tybalt in black shirt, Juliet in peach dress over white shirt, Benvolio, script in hand and wearing blue and yellow checked shirt and jeans crouches down behind Juliet, patrons sitting at tables on the perimeter and a bar to the rightOn Stage: Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending

Aligning the Fates for Tragical Mirth

Mercutio and Benvolio try to convince Romeo to join them at Capulet's party, but Romeo resists. "Some consequence yet hanging in the stars shall bitterly begin his fearful date with this night's revels and expire the term of a despisèd life closed in my breast by some vile forfeit of untimely death." "Or not," replies Mercutio. "I suppose it depends on whether or not people make terrible decisions," Romeo says, but he doesn't mean his decisions; he means ours, those made by the audience at this Valley Shakespeare Festival production of Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending, the cleverly comic adaptation of William Shakespeare's tragedy by the sister-and-brother writing team Ann and Shawn Fraistat. The play pauses at three points for the audience to vote on a decision Romeo must make, leading to eight different endings. Relying as much on liberal use of mature language and sexual connations as on Shakespeare's text, the Fraistats create cheeky internal commentary on the play itself. In other words, it's a perfect piece to play in a bar, which is the venue for this production. For the complete review, click here.

Sicinius in green work shirt and ragged brown cargo vest stands chest to chest with Coriolanus, a coagulated wound on his left temple and wearing a green long-sleeve t-shirt and green gargo vestOn Stage: Coriolanus

Of the People

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

Imogen sitting in bed, wearing blue nightdress, book in her lap, and in window above her a shadow puppet of a man with long finges attackine a woman on an outline of a book. Iachimo's trunk is in the foreground of the photoOn Stage: Imogen

Refocusing Shakespeare's Play from Y to X

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

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

Money Talks

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

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

Virtual Reality for the Soul

Talk about immersive theater. Without virtual reality technology, digital effects, or elaborate sets, you are immersed into the world of the Ghost, the troubled mind of Hamlet, the guilty mind of Claudius, the practical mind of Gertrude, the naive mind of Polonius, the incensed mind of Laertes, the fractured mind of Ophelia, and even the mesmerized minds of the gallants sitting on their on-stage stools. Seven days have passed since that moment, and I'm not only still pondering this production's place in all my life's Shakespeareances, I'm still feeling the vibrations in my cheeks, the tingles in my gut, the intensified thumping in my heart, and my stinging palms as I rerun through my mind's eye Hamlet and Gertrude in the closet scene, Ophelia's madness, Claudius watching the Mousetrap, Hamlet and Horatio just being Hamlet and Horatio, and that Ghost. It's theater so immersive you can't get it out of your own system.For the complete review, click here.   Revisited, March 17, 2018

Photo of Richard in gold robe, holding sceptor, hand upraised, in front of throne, with Queen Isabel in blue dress beside himOn Stage: Richard II

Divine Right

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

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

O'erstepping the Modesty of Nature

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

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

Crafting Madness

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

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

Live Theater As Theater of Lives

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

The Canon Project

38 Plays, 38 Theaters, One Year 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 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.

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.2017 in Review and Top 20 + 5 Shakespeareances

Theater As Craft and Context

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.

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.