This summer is bursting with Shakespeare and Shakespeare-ish performance options running all price ranges in the Portland area. Strangely, sadly, I am actually in California for a research fellowship, and so am missing a great deal of the offerings. Regardless, I did want to let you know what was available. Maybe you’ll let me know what you think?
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Running late February through October, treat yourself to well-funded, professional Shakespeare in the adorable southern Oregon town of Ashland. You probably already know about this venue, as the festival is an institution. In fact, anytime I tell someone I teach in Oregon, this is the first thing they ask me about. Even my veterinarian (for my cat, Puck, obviously) has attended with his mother for the last thirty years and likes to regale me with production stories. While the festival runs a range of genres—from new works to musicals—here is what they are offering in the Renaissance vein.
- Henry V
- Love’s Labors Lost
- Romeo and Juliet
- The Book of Will
Original Practice Shakespeare Festival
If you’ve been to the blog before, you’ve likely read one of my posts about this company over the last two years. Summer is the optimal time to check the troupe out. They are likely performing in your neighborhood park at least once this summer, and shows are always free.Do see their website for details, but at some point this summer you can see any of these shows.
- All’s Well That Ends Well
- As You Like It
- Comedy of Errors
- 1 Henry VI
- Julius Caesar
- The Merry Wives of Windsor
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Richard III
- Romeo and Juliet
- The Taming of the Shrew
- The Tempest
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona
- Twelfth Night
Bag & Baggage
Aside from missing OPS Fest, this is the other production I am devastated to be missing: “As You Like it; or, Love in a Forest,” by Charles Johnson. Bag & Baggage has long held a reputation for staging Restoration (post-1660) adaptations of Shakespeare plays and innovative adaptations in general. (They’ve received national attention of late for their costume designer, Melissa Heller, in American Theatre magazine.) Really, only Bag & Baggage and the theatre at the Shakespeare Folger Library in Washington, D.C. are doing these kinds of plays this year, so do not miss it this July.
Portland Actors Ensemble + Willamette Shakespeare
Another mainstay of summer Shakespeare in PDX, Portland Actors Ensemble is again partnering with Willamette Shakespeare to present The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in several Willamette Valley wineries throughout the month of August. Before the parody, however, take in PAE’s Romeo and Juliet running the month of July at the idyllic Lone Fir Cemetery.
Salt & Sage
A local company invested in foregrounding the female experience alongside exploring the works of Shakespeare, Salt and Sage will be performing scenes from three plays in a mini-rep for two nights only at the top of August. The title suggests the emphasis: “The Lover’s Project: Romeo and JULIET, Troilus and CRESSIDA, and Antony and CLEOPATRA.” (I wonder if they would be interested in doing pre-Shakespeare boy company plays? Those, by and large, had female eponyms and were more invested in the kinds of questions the company is after rather than the works at the turn of the seventeenth century.)
There are also a number of one-off shows by troupes that don’t typically do or specialize in Shakespeare as part of their regular season.
Ok, so it isn’t quite Shakespeare. Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare’s contemporary, wrote an interesting adaptation of Goethe’s story, Faust. So, by merit of two degrees of separation, I usually have my eye out for a Faust. This is being coproduced by Portland Opera and the Lyric Opera, however, and there will be only be four performances in early June, so get your tickets early.
The Anonymous Theatre Company
Only recently have we had the chance to hear about the annual Anonymous production in advance and in a medium other than word-of-mouth. A one-night-only production that routinely sells-out, this is the first time the company is doing Shakespeare in recent memory. Here’s how they explain their process: “Auditions are held… in secret. The play is cast… in secret. Cast members rehearse the show one-on-one with the director… secretly… and do not learn the identity of the other cast members. On the night of the performance, the actors arrive in street clothes and enter the theatre as if they are members of the audience. They take their seats. They read their programs. They chat with their neighbors. The house lights dim and the play begins… with each actor delivering his or her first line from their seat. The audience gets to see the story happen as if it is happening for the first time… because it actually is happening for the first time.” Next show: A Midsummer Night’s Dream in mid-August.
Experience Theatre Project
Following their steampunk Tempest of last summer, the company performs a new adaptation, The Taming and the Shrew: A Kind of History. The title signals to the anonymous pre-Shakespeare play of that title, but none of the promotional material suggest it is drawing on this source. Instead, it seems invested in a critique of predatory masculinity and the #MeToo movement.
This production, “Ambition Puff’d: Vertigo After Dark,” seems a riff on the penchant for drunk Shakespeare performances that has taken over the country. (Bag & Baggage staged such an evening for Valentine’s season.) Rather than alcohol, however, the cast gets baked and attempts performance. This is a one-night-only performance as well, so plan early.