Spring has sprung, and Shakespeare is springing up with it. April is Shakespeare’s birthday month—it’s on April 23 (maybe), but he’s one of those guys who makes the whole month about himself—and around the world people are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the First Folio, the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s play. The next few months will also witness the beginning of many Shakespeare festivals’ big repertory seasons. Here’s our look at what Folger Theatre and our Shakespeare theater partners have onstage in April, May, and June. Plus, find out how people are celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday across the United States.
Here at the Folger, we’re celebrating Shakespeare and the First Folio throughout April with Searching for Shakespeare, a free citywide celebration including an exhibition featuring a First Folio, a world-premiere touring production of Our Verse in Time to Come by Folger Theatre, and a scavenger hunt.
Folger Theatre’s Our Verse in Time to Come tours DC Public Library locations through April 23.
The First Folio represents the first time 18 of Shakespeare’s plays had appeared in print. Without it, those plays—including Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Julius Caesar—would be lost. Searching for Shakespeare explores the stories we preserve and the ones we forget, and asks who is responsible for passing those stories on. Folger Theatre’s Our Verse in Time to Come, by Malik Work and Karen Ann Daniels in collaboration with Devin E. Haqq, tells the story of an aging emcee, affectionately known as SOS, who gets out of prison after 25 years only to be diagnosed with early onset dementia. Realizing it’s his last chance to reconnect with his children, SOS engages an old family friend to arrange his estate and ensure his now grown twins, Vi and Will, accept it before his memory slips away for good. Our Verse is touring DC Public Library locations through April 23. Can’t make it to one of our free DC Public Library performances? Catch an special limited engagement at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company April 25 – 30.
Atlanta Shakespeare Company
Spring at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company begins with Douglas Post’s By My Will, beginning April 8. In this new comedy, commissioned by ASC Artistic Director Jeff Watkins, an assortment of 16th-century playwrights, poets, and royals meet up in a… unique location… to determine who among them may have written the works attributed to the man from Stratford. It’s a veritable comic vivisection of the authorship question with twists, turns, and bawdy humor. Watkins says, “Many of our audience members have been curious and brave enough to explore those doubts with me over the years so I wanted to create a fun evening at the theatre delving into it with them.” The play is also a chance to Watkins to reconnect with Post, an old college friend and artistic comrade whom he hasn’t worked with for 40 years. “It’s an honor and a privilege for an artistic director to be able to commission a new work for their theater… I hope we’re the launching pad for this play to go on to greater and greater success.”
Baltimore Shakespeare Factory
Baltimore Shakespeare Factory is excited to begins its 2023 season with Henry VIII. Bring your friends, your family, and your favorite wife to see a dramatic contest for power and prestige in King Henry’s court.
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company continues its 20th anniversary season with Hamlet. It’s a thrilling tale of revenge brought to life by nationally-recognized Shakespeare director Eleanor Holdridge and featuring CSC company member Vince Eisenson as the sharp-witted tragic prince. With a gripping plot, haunting imagery, and an unforgettable cast, this production explores grief, loss, and the search for meaning in a chaotic world. Hamlet opens April 28 at the company’s downtown Baltimore theatre.
Chicago Shakespeare Company
This spring at the Chicago Shakespeare Company, Barbara Gaines revisits her signature interpretation of Shakespeare’s riotous The Comedy of Errors in her final production as the theater’s artistic director, with newly rewritten scenes penned by Second City veteran Ron West. An eccentric group of stage and screen actors gather on a London movie set in 1941 to film the play as much-needed comic relief for the troops. Backstage antics and hilarious complications abound as Antipholus and Dromio search for their identical twins, lost since infancy. The Comedy of Errors runs through April 23.
The Theater is also celebrating Shakespeare’s 459th birthday a free streaming event, TO BE, debuting Sunday, April 23. “All the world’s a stage” with a series of performances at the Theater’s home on Navy Pier and across the city. TO BE will pay tribute to Chicago Shakespeare’s history with an appearance by Bruce A. Young, who spoke the first words in the inaugural production of Henry V on the roof of the Red Lion Pub, while also spotlighting the current vitality and thrilling possibilities of the arts in Chicago. The event will feature performances by community arts partners, including spoken word artist Jose iasEL Gonzalez and Yin He Dance, a company rooted in Chicago’s Chinese American community. There will also be vocal performances by Chicago talents Neala Barron, Luke Nowakowski, Juwon Tyrel Perry, and Cherise Thomas, with music direction by David Fiorello.
Then, on April 24, the Theater will honor the legacy of outgoing Founding Artistic Director Barbara Gaines with the Spirit of Shakespeare Award, in recognition of her incredible 37-year tenure at the helm of Chicago Shakespeare. An event at the Theater’s home on Navy Pier will celebrate her artistry, achievements, and the vital role she has played in Chicago’s performing arts community. Since 2011, the Award has recognized those who embody Shakespeare’s spirit through community engagement and artistic leadership.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company
This spring, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company presents its final two productions of the 2023-24 Season. The company’s As You Like It, onstage through April 29, is a poppy musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, set in the 1990s and featuring an original collection of songs. The season concludes with Alice Childress’s Trouble in Mind, a dark comedy about a Black actor navigating racism, identity, and egos in 1950s Broadway, running May 12 – June 3.
Cincinnati Shakes celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23 with Battle of the Bards, where bands and musicians perform original music inspired by songs in Shakespeare’s plays as a fundraiser for CSC’s educational program PROJECT38.
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
Directed by Associate Artistic Director Bryn Boice, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s Stage2 production of Romeo and Juliet presents the greatest love story ever told in a new and satisfying way for audiences of all ages, transported to the sci-fi-inspired planet of Verona. Beam us up!
In celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday and the 400th anniversary of the printing of the First Folio, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company is ready to party—and what better way to do that than with a game? On April 16, check the company’s social media pages for a special birthday bingo card of Shakespeare-related activities you can do around the Boston or in your own home. Complete five of them and post them on social media, using the hashtag #BirthdayBardBingo and tagging @commshakes, to receive a special prize!
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues until mid-May, performing at schools and community centers, Tuesday through Saturday. Join them for free public performances April 12 at the Foster City Library, April 22 at the San Carlos Library, April 25 at the San Mateo Library, and May 6 at the Belmont Library.
Seattle Shakespeare Company
April 26 – May 21, Seattle Shakespeare Company presents the musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Twelfth Night—their first full musical ever!
Shakespeare in Detroit
Join Shakespeare in Detroit and InsideOut Literary Arts for their 2nd annual Sonnet Slam, a raucous celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday and National Poetry Month. Watch some of Detroit’s finest poets battle it out for the title of Sonnet Slam Champion with contemporary and Shakespearean sonnets.
St. Louis Shakespeare Festival
April 14 – 16, join the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival for their annual Confluence New Play Festival. Witness the future of American theater with staged readings from the 2022 Confluence Regional Writers Project playwrights: Novid Parsi (St. Louis, MO), Hanna Kime (Chicago, IL) and e.k. doolin (Edwardsville, IL). The festival aims to propel unique Midwest voices into the national conversation and is the only new work program dedicated to Missouri and Illinois writers.
On April 26, head over to the Mad Art Gallery for Shakespeare on Trial. Experts on Shakespeare, the law, and mental health will delve into the upcoming Shakespeare in the Park production Twelfth Night, the character of Malvolio, and the historic and present-day procedures for the involuntary commitment of those dealing with mental illness. The issues of guardianship for and commitment of individuals have captured national attention in the high-profile celebrity cases of Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes, and Kanye West. The roundtable discussion will focus on the legality of Mavolio’s persecution and issues presented by today’s civil commitment laws.
As spring turns to summer, join the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park for their free annual Shakespeare in the Park production. This year, enjoy a Latin-inflected Twelfth Night, beginning May 31, set in glamorous, celebrity-filled Miami.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
OSF kicks off a new season with Romeo and Juliet (beginning April 18) and Rent (beginning April 19). Coming later this spring: a thrilling new adaptation of Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and a jazzy new production of Twelfth Night.
Theatre for a New Audience
April 29 – May 28, Theatre for a New Audience presents Fuente Ovejuna. The great Spanish author Lope de Vega (1562–1635) wrote the play in 1612 after he was inspired by a historical incident: farmers and peasants of the village of Fuente Ovejuna rose up against a military commander and his soldiers who routinely brutalized and oppressed them. Lope de Vega’s genius was to create a powerful mix of music, singing, dance, humor, and unforgettable drama. TFANA’s production, directed by Flordelino Lagundino, is the play’s Off-Broadway Premiere in English; the translation by Adrian Mitchell had its world premiere in 1989 at London’s National Theatre. Carlo Albán, Jonathan Cake, and Juliana Canfield lead a fourteen-actor cast.
The Old Globe
At The Old Globe in San Diego, Kemp Powers’s The XIXth is onstage now: Two Black American sprinters, the fastest men on Earth, raise their fists in protest. Inspired by real events from the historic 1968 Olympic Games, this suspenseful world premiere shows the life-changing repercussions of being a champion who chooses to speak out.
Keiko Green’s Exotic Deadly: Or the MSG Play is onstage April 8 – May 7. In this whimsical, riotous, time-traveling adventure, an awkward Asian American high schooler vows to redeem her family name and save the world from MSG.
Spring continues with Karen Zacarías’s Destiny of Desire: An Unapologetic Telenovela in Two Acts (begins May 19) and Twelfth Night (begins June 12).
Drop by San Diego’s Balboa Park on April 22 for Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare!, The Old Globe’s annual free AXIS celebration for our longest resident playwright. The theater invites families to join them for live music, puppetry, Shakespearean performances, craft making, a stage sword fighting workshop, an Elizabethan dance presentation, and more.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
Looking ahead to June: Theatricum Botanicum begins its 50th-anniversary repertory season with its signature production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (beginning June 11), Macbeth (beginning June 10), and more.
American Players Theatre
American Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI, is beginning its 44th season this June. This summer’s lineup includes nine productions in rotating repertory, June 10 – November 19. This season is both novel and foundational, with some twists on classics that feel relevant for these times. In the 1,075-seat, outdoor Hill Theatre, the season begins June 10 with The Merry Wives of Windsor. After that, APT is excited to present Romeo & Juliet, featuring two Deaf actors in the roles of Romeo and Friar Laurence, with the cast acting as a chorus to speak their signed lines aloud. Captioning will be available for all performances of Romeo & Juliet via GalaPro captioning service. Another old-meets-new production on the Hill is Anton’s Shorts: a selection of one-act comedies and Vaudevilles by Anton Chekhov adapted by playwright and director Aaron Posner, who has written a new character—Anton Chekhov, as a matter of fact—to tie the stories together. In 201-seat Touchstone Theatre, APT will present four productions, including Marco Ramirez’s The Royale, a thrilling play about the glory and danger of blazing trails as a Black man in America, based on the life of heavyweight champ Jack Johnson.
American Players Theatre, Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, Theatre for a New Audience, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, The Old Globe, and Seattle Shakespeare Company are members of the Folger’s theater partnership program.
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