What’s onstage in April at Shakespeare theaters across America

What's On: "Richard II""
Caroline Amos as King Richard II in Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard II.” Photo by Kenn Stilger.

Every month, we share a snapshot of Shakespeare in performance around America. This month, we check in with our theater partners at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Brave Spirits Theatre, The Old Globe, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

What's On: "The Tempest"
Christina King and Esau Pritchett in “The Tempest”

At the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, The Tempest opens April 20. It’s the final Shakespeare production for beloved Artistic Director Geoffrey Sherman, who has been with the Festival for 12 seasons. It’s also the world premiere of Kenneth Cavender’s modernized “translation” of the play, part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Play On” initiative.

Each season, the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory performs a show in Original Pronunciation—a recreation of the dialect in which Shakespeare and his contemporaries spoke. This season, that show is Antony and Cleopatra, onstage through Sunday, April 23. Want to hear some Shakespeare in OP? Watch an introduction by BSF company members Valerie Dowdle (Cleopatra) and Chris Cotterman (Antony), or check out our interview with OP experts David and Ben Crystal.

Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s Richard II also runs through April 23, and features an all-female cast. In his notes, director Sean Martin writes that the play is his favorite of Shakespeare’s works, except for one persistent convention:

In almost every production I have seen, there’s been a problem. Richard is primarily played as “effeminate,” perhaps in an effort to invoke a sense of weakness. He was a king that didn’t have the love of his people, was generally led by the opinions of others, easily swayed, and not the traditional battle-tested English King of the time. I didn’t feel this benefited the story, but rather took away from the underlying humanness and simplicity of Richard. . . So when I looked at this play, I was intrigued by the idea of throwing all stereotypes out the window and only using females. By doing the play in opposition to Shakespeare’s original practices (all-male), you are able to view the story solely from a human standpoint.

Brave Spirits Theatre spends this month not with Shakespeare, but with three of his contemporaries. One cast of 12 actors performs two plays in repertory: John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore and Fletcher and Beaumont’s A King and No King. The two plays share one taboo subject—along with “conspiracies, betrayals, disguises, political corruption, and shocking violence.” The repertory closes April 23.

At The Old Globe in San Diego, Red Velvet continues its run through April 30. Lolita Chakrabarti’s play tells the story of Ira Aldridge, the first black man to play the role of Othello on the English stage.

What's On: "Henry IV, Part 1."
Rachel Kostma and Michael Gabriel Goodfriend in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Henry IV, Part 1.” Photo by Jenny Graham.

This month at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, you can catch six plays, including Shakespeare in Love, Julius Caesar, Henry IV Part One, and Hannah and the Dread Gazebo. OSF is also celebrating Lynn Nottage’s second Pulitzer Prize, announced earlier this week. Nottage’s play Sweat, which premiered at OSF in 2015 as part of the American Revolutions project, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Don’t forget, you can do more than just see one of Shakespeare’s plays this month: you can also attend one of his many birthday parties! Sunday, April 23 marks the 453rd anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday, and theater companies around the world are celebrating with programs and events. Follow us on Twitter to find out how our theater partners are celebrating Bill’s birthday bash.

What's On: Shakespeare's Birthday
The Folger celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday (with cake!) in Washington, DC. Photo by Tracy Russo, 2016.

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