¶ Dear readers,
¶ After the 400th anniversary celebrations, one would assume it likely that Shakespeare performances might wane. After all, we did have the Cultural Olympiad, featuring the World Shakespeare Festival, as part of the London 2012 Olympics. In 2016, there were an incredible number of events across the globe, including world tours and major city initiatives (such as the Chicago City Desk project), that staged unprecedented cycles of Shakespeare originals and adaptations. It would seem, however, that this glut of Shakespeare has stabilized an appetite for productions rather than causing audiences to be surfeit. Lucky, lucky me.
¶ I have now had a year to get a sense of the Shakespeare landscape here in the Pacific Northwest, with the help of some friends—most notably, Linfield professor and regular New Yorker contributor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner. Oregon is a hub for Shakespeare due to its award-winning regional festival in Ashland. The Henry IV plays they are running this summer are something special, by virtue of the ensemble, the lead Daniel Jose Molina, and the thoughtful direction by Lileana Blain-Cruz. If the five-hour drive and ticket prices are a deterrent for you, do not fear: there are a number of interesting Shakespeare events closer to the Columbia this summer.
WIL Festival, Original Practice Shakespeare Festival
¶ I would be remiss if I did not mention my own theatre troupe, the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival (OPS Fest). They opened their summer season this past Wednesday, performing a blue version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the top of Mt. Tabor to celebrate the solstice. They will be performing their brand of the bard—using original rehearsal and improvisational tactics rather than costumes and accoutrements—for free all summer across the neighborhood parks of the Portland area. Of particular note is their WIL Festival, where they will perform all 15 of the plays in their repertoire over the course of three weeks. For more, check out their website, Facebook profile, and podcast.
Romeo and Juliet (Layla & Majnun), Bag & Baggage
¶ Hillsboro’s house company, Bag & Baggage, has had a tempestuous year. They put on a number of very well regarded productions, but had the rug pulled out under them when their home space was sold, and then booted them out early . The troupe was well-underway building their new space, but it did mean the cancellation of one show and the moving of another. Their 2017-18 season opens with the world premiere of Romeo & Juliet (Layla & Majnun), an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play interwoven with kindred elements from a 12th-century Persian epic. All evidence suggests this is likely to be an especially thoughtful and innovative production. The show will run into the first week of August, starting with a special pay-what-you-will (pun obviously intended) performance July 20th, with proceeds going to Defensa de la Dignidad. For tickets and more information, see the company website or special Facebook invitation.
The Tempest: A Magical Steampunk Adventure, The Experience Theatre Project
¶ Next door in Beaverton, the Experience Theatre Project is putting on The Tempest. Truthfully, I know little about the company and less about the television show Steampunk’d, but apparently two of the leads are drawn from the series in this electro-Victorian staging. This is also free to the public (although you can reserve seats for $15 online) and promises to be a Shakespeare of a different color than anything you might see in Ashland. For more, check out their Facebook profile.
Troilus and Cressida, Portland Actors Ensemble
¶ While PAE’s Coriolanus fell flat for me last summer, their Love’s Labours Lost was incredibly smart. (I wrote about their summer season in detail for The Shakespeare Newsletter, a part of which you can read online here.) This summer, they are only running one production, but it is the first time they have staged the infrequently done Troilus and Cressida—Shakespeare’s take on Chaucer. Better yet, it is happening in a cemetery. There is little else my Edward Gorey-heart loves more than theatre in a cemetery. That, and, if last summer is any indication, the company has a good sense of how to make the most of being site-specific. For more information, check out their website or Facebook profile.
BONUS! Seattle Shakespeare in the Park
¶ The Seattle Shakespeare Company is again running their annual Wooden O series of free Shakespeare performances in the parks around Seattle this summer. While the company typically tours paid shows during the year, this summer you can see Pericles and Much Ado About Nothing in beach and community parks in the Seattle area through early August. For more information, check out their website or Facebook events.
¶ I hope to see you in the parks this summer!