¶ According to American Theatre magazine, “Shakespeare remains the most-produced playwright in the country, with 108 productions (including various adaptations). And this year his most-produced play will be Twelfth Night with 9 productions.” In fact, Shakespeare in Love was the most produced play of the year, with 15 full-scale professional productions nation-wide. This does not take into account all of the Shakespeare-ish works making the rounds to be excited for, including the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged) and Emma Whipday’s Shakespeare’s Sister. If you are in the Portland area this fall, there are a couple of exciting productions to keep your eyes peeled for.
¶ Pericles Wet
¶ This December, Portland Shakespeare Project will be producing a full-scale run of my colleague, Ellen Margolis’ adaptation of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Based on the act printed in a recent issue of Prosceniumand a reading I saw last year, this is likely to prove special. This re-magining refocuses on the assault of Princess Hesperides and the framing device of Gower.
¶ Settling in to the new gig and ‘orizons, it seems for the moment like the Pacific Northwest summer might just last forever. That, or I am still suffering the lingering effects of Midwestern winter weather amnesia. Due to the madness of the cross-country move, I was unable to make it out to Ashland for the famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival offerings. Keeping it local, I even managed to review the summer season of one of the Portland-based troupes, forthcoming later this fall from The Shakespeare Bulletin. Until then, here is a quick run-down of the PDX troupes with a scholarly bent if you can’t make the five-hour trek south.
¶ This nearly fifty-year-old troupe puts on a mobile Shakespeare-in-the-Parks summer season free to the public. The goal here is explicitly to use non-traditional urban spaces to bring Shakespeare to those least likely to have access, and so in many ways echoing the first troupes the toured England (rather than bunkering in London) during the mid-1500s.
¶ The company prides itself on using period-accurate rehearsal strategies to cultivate an “improv-ish” experience. While it seems like they are a bit behind the times in terms of what we would now consider accurate casting practices (they laud themselves on never using the same actor twice, when in the period typecasting based on humors was an actors bread-and-butter), all of their other tactics are spot-on: limited rehearsal; an onstage prompter; fast paced, energetic acting; and lots of audience interaction.
¶ This is the newest of the troupes in town. Entering its sixth season, the Project’s branding and mission is very similar to its nonprofit counterpart in the Windy City, the Shakespeare Project of Chicago. Both are committed to using local practitioners rather than importing a recognizable face from television or film (a significant problem in the Chicago media casting scene as well as the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre).
¶ I hope you’ll join me at one of these performances next summer! ¶ Elizabeth