63 Days, 38 Performances …

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Heart of America  Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City

Arrived in New Orleans the other night after 600 mile drive from an unexpected stop in the unexpectedly delightful St. Genevieve, MO. A gumbo dinner and good night’s sleep later and we’re enjoying coffee in high humidity. Amid the sweet, sticky madness of it all, I thought it might be grounding to make a list of the productions we’ll be seeing in the next two months. Although this trip has taken months of planning (hats off, as ever, to the estimable Susan Brock, the ‘M’ who calmly pulls our strings from UK HQ), it’s odd to say that this is the first time we’ve made a list consisting solely of the SHOWS (as distinct from accommodations, cars, planes etc) that we’ll be seeing this summer. The headline is this:

In 63 days, we’re seeing 38 performances, including productions of over half (22) of Shakespeare’s canon.

Amazingly, the first 16 productions are each of different plays – i.e. there are no repeats in the first four weeks. This was far from inevitable. Indeed, when we partnered with our 14 Festivals, many didn’t know exactly what they would be producing and when, nor did we know when we would be rearing into view. There was the very real possibility that we’d find ourselves watching 13 consecutive productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream followed by 6 As You Like Its washed down by 5 Tempests. Worse things happen at sea, as the last play amply demonstrates, but this might all have been a tad wearying even for the most ardent Shakespearean peregrinator. But the moral of this story is that the North American festival culture is so well-established, so various and often so experimental that there is an appetite and an audience for all of Shakespeare, not merely the Greatest Box Office Hits. While King Lear, for example, is hardly a stranger to big theatres, it is surprising that it is de facto the play of our summer – we’ll be seeing it *four* times, first starring the wonderful Ellen Geer in a reverse-gender account in California, then at the magical outdoor setting of Door, Wisconsin, then two mouth-watering, big-hitting accounts by Colm Feore at Stratford, Ontario, and John Lithgow in Central Park. And it seems peculiarly apt – and not at all planned – that The Winter’s Tale will bookend the trip: the ‘wide gap of time’ between the production we saw in Kansas City last weekend will be neatly closed by the exciting “Free For All” performance at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington DC in late August.

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OK, back to the chicory coffee… and here’s the full list:
<h3>Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City, MO</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>The Winter’s Tale</em>, 4 and 5 July, 8pm</p>

<h3>New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, New Orleans, LA</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</em>, 11 July, 7.30pm</p>

<h3>Shakespeare at Winedale, Winedale, TX</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Troilus and Cressida</em> (dress), 14 July <em>The Merry Wives of Windsor</em> (dress), 15 July</p>

<h3>Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, UT</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Twelfth Night</em>, 17 July, 2pm
<em>Measure for Measure</em>, 17 July, 8pm
<em>The Comedy of Errors</em>, 18 July, 2pm
<em>Henry IV Part 1</em>, 18 July, 8pm</p>

<h3>Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga, CA</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Much Ado About Nothing</em>, 25 July, 8pm
<em>All’s Well that End’s Well</em>, 26 July, 4pm
<em>King Lear</em>, 26 July, 8pm</p>

<h3>Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Richard III</em>, 29 July, 8pm
<em>The Comedy of Errors</em>, 30 July, 1.30pm
<em>The Two Gentlemen of Verona</em>, 31 July, 8pm</p>

<h3>Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Bozeman, MT</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>As You Like It</em>, 3 August, 4.30pm
Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Philipsburg, MT
<em>Romeo and Juliet</em>, 4 August, 6pm</p>

<h3>Door Shakespeare, Door, WI</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>King Lear</em>,6 August, 8pm</p>

<h3>Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Welles Park, Chicago, IL</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</em>, 8 August, 6.30pm</p>

<h3>Harlem Shakespeare Festival, Harlem, NYC, NY</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Shakespeare in Sable: The History of Black Shakespearean Actors</em>, 11 August, 7.15pm</p>

<h3>Shakespeare in the Park, Central Park, NYC, NY</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>King Lear</em>, 12 August, 8pm</p>

<h3>The Amerindian Shakespeare Initiative, location tbc,</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”>Work-in-progress, 13 August, 7pm</p>

<h3>Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, NYC, NY</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Othello</em>, 14 August, tbc</p>

<h3>Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, MA</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</em>, 16 August, 2pm
<em>Henry IV Parts 1 and 2</em>, 16 August, 7.30pm
<em>Julius Caesar</em>, 17 August, 3pm</p>

<h3>Stratford Shakespeare Festival Stratford, ON</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Antony and Cleopatra</em>, 19 August, 2pm
<em>King John</em>, 19 August, 2pm
<em>King Lear</em>, 20 August, 8pm
<em>A Midsummer Night’s Dream</em>, 21 August, 2pm
Chamber <em>Dream</em>, 21 August, 8pm</p>

<h3>Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Nashville, TN</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>As You Like It</em>, 23 + 24 August, 7.30pm</p>

<h3>Blackfriars Theatre, Staunton, VI</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>Edward II </em>(dress), 27 August, 2pm
<em>Macbeth</em>, 27 August, 7.30pm
<em>The Comedy of Errors</em>, 28 August, 7.30pm</p>

<h3>Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington DC</h3>
<p style=”padding-left: 30px;”><em>The Winter’s Tale</em>, 31 August, 2pm</p>

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Author:Paul Prescott

Paul Prescott is Associate Professor of English at the University of Warwick (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/about/people/permanentacademicstaffstaff3/prescottdrpaul/).

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