What’s onstage at Shakespeare theaters in February

Every month, we call up our Shakespeare theater partners to see what they have onstage. Find out what’s on across the US in February.

aran Tahir, left, as Claudius, and Mark Torres as Polonius in "Hamlet 360: Thy Father's Spirit," Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and Google. Photo by Matthew Niederhauser.
Faran Tahir, left, as Claudius, and Mark Torres as Polonius in “Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit,” Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and Google. Photo by Matthew Niederhauser.

Normally, you’d have to be in Boston to watch a show at the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. This time, you can stay at home and be in the show. Hamlet 360: Thy Father’s Spirit is a virtual reality experience that puts you in the play. From the New York Times: 

If you look to your left, you will see your own reflection in a gilded mirror. You will appear haggard, bloody, ferocious and, in fact, dead. Because in this virtual reality version of Shakespeare, you are the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father.

Watch—or, rather, explore—the performance on YouTube with your smartphone and VR headset. Then, get the behind-the-scenes scoop in Elizabeth A. Harris’s recent piece in the Times, “Hamlet in Virtual Reality Casts the Viewer in the Play.” You’ll learn about the technology that Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and Google used, as well as the extra-long takes required to seamlessly create the experience.

Clay Vanderbeek (Rosencrantz) and Nate Ruleaux (Guildenstern) in Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s 2019 production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead directed by Donald Hicken. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
Clay Vanderbeek (Rosencrantz), Nate Ruleaux (Guildenstern) in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Photo: Joshua McKerrow.

Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is onstage through February 24 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company, directed by Tony Award-nominee Donald Hicken . As Hicken recently told the Capital Gazettethis isn’t his first experience with the play: it was his first professional production as an actor, in which he met the woman who would later become his wife. As a director, Hicken has had more time to marvel at how skillfully Stoppard crafts the play’s protagonists:

It’s really fascinating to me the ways Stoppard has made Rosencrantz and Guildenstern distinct but also hard to tell apart. That’s one of the running jokes in the play, that nobody can tell them apart. They’re not even sure who is who. Given that humorous conceit, it’s been fascinating for me to see how skillfully Stoppard constructed and differentiated these characters.

The Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet is onstage through February 24.

Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s Cymbeline runs through March 10.

Seamus Miller as Prince Hal with Gregory Burgess as Sir John Falstaff in "Henry IV, Part 1," Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Photo by Brandon W. Vernon.
Seamus Miller as Prince Hal with Gregory Burgess as Sir John Falstaff in “Henry IV, Part 1,” Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Photo by Brandon W. Vernon.

At Baltimore’s Chesapeake Shakespeare CompanyHenry IV, Part 1 opens February 15, hotly followed by Henry IV, Part 2which opens March 15. In his director’s notes, Ian Gallanar points out just how innovative Shakespeare’s narratives are:

[Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2] are revolutionary plays in how the playwright constructs plots and sub-plots. The construction of the story feels very contemporary. I hope you’ll notice how Shakespeare tells the stories of the death of Henry IV, of Falstaff and Hal’s friendship, and the rebellions that affect all of the characters in the two plays. Shakespeare weaves these stories together in ways that are hardly noticeable to a contemporary audience because we’ve grown so accustomed to this dramatic structure. But, as with so many things, Shakespeare was an innovator. We’ve been following his example of storytelling ever since.

At Chicago Shakespeare Theater, catch a 75-minute abridged version of Macbeth. “I think often people treat this play as though it’s a horror film,” says director Marti Lyons. “Actually, it’s a psychological thriller. We start out with someone who I think actually does have a moral code, who does have a set of principles. Then, over the course of the play, in trying to reconcile his own actions with who he thinks he is, he goes mad.”

Part of Chicago’s Short Shakespeare! series, Macbeth will be performed for more than 30,000 students during weekday Team Shakespeare matinees, with public performances on Saturdays, making Shakespeare accessible for audiences of all ages. Stick around after the show to chat with the actors.

Arizona’s Southwest Shakespeare Company explores love in all its many forms in a repertory of As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew at the Mesa Arts Center, February 22 through March 9. Real-life married-couple/co-artistic directors Betsy and Quinn Matfield star in The Taming of the Shrew as Kate and Petruchio. Quinn pulls double-duty and directs As You Like It.

Annapolis Shakespeare Company, Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and Southwest Shakespeare Company are theater partners of the Folger Shakespeare Library. 

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