Shakespeare was born on April 23 (we think), which makes April the perfect month to catch one of his plays at a theater near you. We checked in with some of our theater partners to find out what they have onstage. What play are you planning to see?
At the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, there’s still time to catch As You Like It (through April 25), Romeo and Juliet (through April 28), and George Brant’s Into the Breeches (through May 4). Artistic Director Rick Dildine directs Romeo and Juliet, conceiving it as a play not just about love, but about a “failure of community.” “At every pivotal moment in Romeo and Juliet’s lives, they would have been better served by selfless advice from an adult,” writes Dildine. Dildine and the production’s designers were inspired by a National Center for Education Statistics figure: 73 percent of all public schools in the US were built before 1969. The production’s set—an abandoned school building, worn down by years of neglect—is a metaphor for the way communities sometimes fail to support their youngest members.
Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s Hamlet (through May 5) is performed in Original Pronunciation, which approximates the way Shakespeare would have spoken. Pronouncing the words as Shakespeare might have helps uncover rhymes and rhythms in the text that we don’t normally notice today, but that would have been apparent in the late 16th and early 17th century. Director Chris Cotterman picks up the play’s pace by borrowing elements of the First Quarto of Hamlet, a much leaner version of the play published in 1603.
Brave Spirits Theatre’s As You Like It is onstage through April 27. Director Jessica Aimone and Music Director Zach Roberts wrote new songs for this production of Shakespeare’s comedy. “We thought about it in two ways,” says Roberts:
One was to fill in some gaps for characters that don’t have a lot of stage time (like Audrey or Oliver) and the other was to expand on already existing moments that seem really important. Oliver’s song (we hope) explains some more of his given circumstances and where he’s coming from, which makes his transformation a little bit more believable. Going the opposite way, with the duet between Orlando and Rosalind, we already see them together a lot in the play, but we wanted to live in the wonderful moment of their anticipation for a little bit longer.
At Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Macbeth is onstage through May 4. Director Miranda McGee has been a horror fan since she read Stephen King’s The Shining in fifth grade (yikes!). Her nightmarish Macbeth explores “the fear of who we are and what we are capable of. Not just you but your spouse, your child, your best friend—when presented with an opportunity, who can say how you will react?”
You can catch Theatre for a New Audience’s Julius Caesar through April 28. The production is director Shana Cooper’s Off-Broadway debut. At the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Hamlet is onstage through May 5.
There’s more to come as April continues. At Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Hamlet opens April 17. Maurice Jones, who played Antony in Folger Theatre’s 2014 Julius Caesar, plays the Melancholy Dane. On April 19, the Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s all-female production of Othello drops by Southwest Shakespeare Company for a week of performances at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. As You Like It opens April 23 at Seattle Shakespeare Company.
Finally, here at Folger Theatre, Love’s Labor’s Lost kicks off its run with a Pay-What-You-Will preview on April 30. In our production, the Kingdom of Navarre (“a little academe” where the King and his pals resolve to study and fast for three years) is inspired by the Folger’s own reading rooms, where scholars work every day to illuminate Shakespeare’s world and legacy.