“Darling Buds”: Shakespeare for a Portland Spring

There is a lot of great Shakespeare lined-up in the Portland region this spring. While there are usual summer seasonal companies—my own Original Practice Shakespeare Festival opening on midsummer eve and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival—there is a lot of exciting shorter runs closer to the city to take in. This past fall was a treat, and I didn’t get to nearly as much as I wanted. This time, I’m buying tickets early and blocking out my calendar – and so should you. Here’s a list and details of what is coming up early modern this spring in PDX.

Let me know what you think!

Who thought this was a good idea for a chocolate brand? #ShakespeareInTheWild

That Midsummer ✓

As part of the Fertile Ground festival of new work that kicks off the new year in the Portland theatre community, this piece is in tandem with Twilight Theatre Company‘s season focusing on “how theater enriches our lives; be it told via a play within a play, plays about the acting and directing experience, influential plays that have changed the course of theater, or plays that have helped shape our culture and society today.” MidsummerHamlet, and Love’s Labours Lost are the three most invested in moments of meta-theatre by Shakespeare, staging moments about staging. Adding another layer always has potential to do something special in my experience.

Winter ✓

Written, directed, and produced by local theatre-maker Meg MorriganWinter is also part of the Fertile Ground festival. The description for the this workshop reads: a “’psycho-spiritual vision quest that draws inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, this in-development text uses a free-form, stream-of-consciousness style in its exploration of womanhood, mothers and daughters, the multiverse, free will, and spirituality.”

The Rape of Lucrece

This chamber art musical of Shakespeare’s poem, “The Rape of Lucrece,” promises an intense, intimate production featuring a combination of spoken word and original song. A special benefit performance on February 1st will donate all proceeds to the Sexual Abuse Survivors Movement/Process Group.

Love Drunk: Shakespearean Love Stories ✓

In the vein of the Drunk History web series, actors will attempt to manage iambic pentameter while hammered. The production promises to feature my favorite practices: roles are drawn from a hat on the spot, and actors will attempt to costume themselves and stage their scenes in-the-moment. I know Bag&Baggage loves me.

Twelfth Night ✓

This version of the play takes the gender swap brief to the next level, making room for all kinds of complex sexualities as well as casting Malvolio female as Malvolia. There is an interesting embedded commentary about race and a complex queer resolution that makes this production a unique take on a much-performed play.

Twelfth Night or What You Will ✓

It is hard to tell if setting this playful romp in 1920s Cuba will be in poor taste or right on the pulse of current conversation. It certainly speaks to a major part of the area, the oft-neglected Latino community, but focuses on a particular subset that is easily romanticized.

Macbeth ✓

As a production company noted for being creative with visual patterns and tableau, Shakespeare’ Scottish play will no doubt prove fertile ground. Have run away with a number of Drammys in recent years, this forthcoming project is something to watch for.


Yup. You have not one, but three chances to see the Scottish play this March alone. Will say that it was this play done by this company that converted me to “original practice” techniques. This take on the sleepwalking scene is particularly special. All the better, you can see it as Elizabethans would have: with a beer in hand. Best of all, it’s free.

  • Run: 3/26 at 6:30PM, only.
  • Tickets: Free.
  • Venue: McMenamin’s Mission Theatre (1624 NW Gilsan)
  • Info: http://www.opsfest.org.


This performance by the newly re-planted Fern Shakespeare Company is actually part of the Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare festival happening all spring a couple hours north on the Pacific coast. Details are unclear as yet, but it is a tough sell considering that Seattle Rep is also doing a take, “Mac Beth.” (Edit: As of 3/6, what was billed as “Macbeth” is now a “Hamlet.”)

  • Run: 3/9 – 4/1
  • Tickets: $10 – $15 online or at the door.
  • Venue: Slate Theatre (815 Seattle Blvd S #140, Seattle)
  • Info: https://fernshakespeare.com.

Hamlet ✓

I’ve seen this production twice, so, needless to say, I highly recommend it. While it has some flaws, there are a number of truly smart choices. The opening scene of mourning gives new life to “suit of woe” and reframes the play entirely to think about madness as mourning. In fact, I wrote about it back in 2015.

She Is Fierce: A Play Not By Shakespeare ✓

This production by Enso Theatre, a Portland-based company invested in ensemble-focused work and wellness, it putting there spin on the story of Richard III. Or rather, his wife Anne, who we’ve never really been able to sort out why she married her husband’s and father’s murderer in the first place. Looks to be lively.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

Tom Stoppard never fails to be delicious, for me at least. This is a particularly young vision of the famous play, featuring Daniel Radcliffe, marking the fiftieth anniversary. Stoppard has had a long relationship with t National Theatre, so this promises to be a particular treat.

Julius Caesar ✓

Ben Whishaw is involved, and that is all I need to know to want to attend this screening. His seminal Richard II broke my heart, so I cannot wait to see what he finds in Brutus. Director Nicholas Hytner is also quite the it-boy of Shakespeare direction at the moment, so the staging could be quite compelling.

Much Ado About Nothing

 This adaptation is part of the Play On! series in development by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a three-year initiative that began in 2017. It has been a hit-or-miss project, mostly depending on how the 36 playwrights have chosen to interpret the brief of “revising obsolete words.” This one, the brainchild of British playwright (of Anglo-Indian descent) Ranjit Bolt, gives us high hopes.

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