A Shakespearean Journey
July 14, 2021 3:56 PM   Subscribe

I would like to see all of Shakespeare's plays performed live. Resources, inspiration, ideas to help/guide/inspire me on this journey?

I was a bit of a Shakespeare aficionado in my younger days, and I found a reference to an old goal of mine: to see all of Shakespeare's plays performed live. I think that Past Gray Duck was onto something, so I am going for it. I've seen many performed live in my lifetime, but I don't mind seeing them again...so I'm starting with a clean slate. This will be a multi-year project because I'm not going to spend all of my time following the Bard around the states. Ideally, I'd like to see the final play at the Globe, of course. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Do you know of any good blogs, books, resources, groups, etc that might be of interest to a person on such a quest? I'm looking for inspiration as well as information.

Is there some sort of...I don't know, worldwide database of when and where and who is performing Shakespeare's plays? I've done some general internet searching and have had some luck searching for [state] + Shakespeare. This is kind of clunky so I'm hoping for something easier.

I'm particularly looking for performances by, uh, more "polished" Shakespeare companies. As much as I'd love the experience of seeing Romeo & Juliet performed by middle schoolers, I'm hoping for something more professional.

I'm also wondering how to find performances of his lesser-staged plays. I suppose I'd like to know when an eccentric college professor decides that THIS IS THE YEAR to perform King John.

I thank you for your pains and courtesy.
posted by Gray Duck to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a great general answer, but for finding some of the less-performed plays, I know that Oregon Shakespeare Festival cycles through the entire canon. They started their current canon-in-a-decade cycle in 2015 although I'm sure the schedule has been significantly messed up by COVID.

The Folger Shakespeare Library might be able to track down something like that database, if it exists. In addition to putting on plays, they have a large library and lots of researchers who might be able to help you track down more resources.
posted by duien at 4:11 PM on July 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Places with Shakespeare Festivals would be great for this. Besides the afore-mentioned Folger in Washington DC, I can think of many in my region (US West) including one in St George Utah, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the Old Globe Theater in San Diego's Balboa park.
posted by seasparrow at 4:38 PM on July 14, 2021

At least ONE of your venues must be Central Park.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:42 PM on July 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I also have an actor friend who is a serious Shakespeare buff - I will ask him.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:43 PM on July 14, 2021

Ooh, another thing to consider - is there a point at which a particular production has taken too many liberties with the play for you to consider that seeing it "counts"? Like, if for whatever reason you can't find a production of Romeo and Juliet, would West Side Story do? Or might that be a supplementary secondary challenge for round 2?

....Because frankly, some of the more "creative" re-interpretations sometimes work really well. But they can often run very far afield.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:52 PM on July 14, 2021

Nthing OSF Ashland as a way to viably do this. It takes some schedule planning since they split the season into two in normal times, but you can knock out perhaps six plays over three days if you'd like. And if you don't want to cram that much drama in, the Oregon Caves, Crater Lake, the Rogue River, and Table Rock are all nearby for nature-oriented outings. They do vary widely in terms of how the plays are staged and interpreted each year, but they get to the less-often produced plays regularly. You could always do the big names elsewhere and go west for the more peculiar ones. Plus their three venues give you vastly different experiences.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 5:08 PM on July 14, 2021

Ha, this is awesome. Good luck finding the histories. I think Shakespeare festivals will be your friend. You might give yourself a few free passes, and go with recordings of live BBC productions or somesuch.

Folger has a podcast called Shakespeare Unlimited, and they have an episode from 2015 called "Rarely Performed Shakespeare." That seems like a fine place to start tracking down some of the more obscure plays.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:15 PM on July 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

What a fun idea. Definitely add the (professional!) Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (which is one of the few in the US that has completed the canon) and Stratford Festival to your itinerary. I have seen productions at both, they're great!
posted by mostly vowels at 5:47 PM on July 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Take the list of plays, make Google alerts with appropriate parameters. Also, a friend was in a group that met monthly before the Bad times to read Shakespeare's plays aloud.
posted by theora55 at 6:01 PM on July 14, 2021

Thus spake my actor friend:
I’ve actually achieved this, this is a handy list (Shakespearances - Where's Playing What).
It looks like the very database you're envisioning.

For the more obscure ones, my friend suggests watching a recorded version OF a live production, which often get streamed on BroadwayHD and Marquee.tv. The UK also offers taped recordings of live productions done at the Globe or the RSC, which you can rent or own a stream of (I own the recording of the MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING that David Tennant and Catherine Tate were in).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:18 PM on July 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

I heartily recommend a stop in Stratford, Ontario for the Stratford Theatre Festival. The town revolves around theatre and Shakespeare. The festival puts on 8-12 different plays each year over the course of a season, in five dedicated theatres*, and at least a few of them are Shakespeare. (Looks like this year it's only A Midsummer Night's Dream and a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet geared toward accessibility/full enjoyment for sight-impaired persons.)

World-class stages, performances, costuming, and art direction. When I lived in SE Michigan, I'd drive up 6-10x a year, seeing many of the shows repeatedly.

*The Festival Theatre is my favorite.
posted by droomoord at 7:34 PM on July 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Find Austin Tichenor and ask him.

Also, watch his group's original Complete Works show while you're at it, so you can fish to him.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:11 PM on July 14, 2021

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