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Shakespeare & Beyond

What's onstage at Shakespeare theaters in January

Happy New Year! As the ball dropped, the confetti fell, and the year began, we started to wonder what 2024 had in store for us Shakespeare-lovers and theater-goers. To answer that question, we reached out to our theater partners across the United States to see what they were up to this month.

Here at the Folger, Folger Theatre’s Reading Room Festival returns for its second season. This year’s festival features three days of staged readings, talks, screenings, and parties, with new Shakespeare-inspired plays from Austin Dean Ashford, Carmen Pelaez, Jacob Ming-Trent, and Sarah Mantell.

Pericles, at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.

Atlanta Shakespeare Company

The Atlanta Shakespeare Company began the year by hosting the Shakespeare Theatre Association Conference. Over 150 theater-makers attended, learning about educational and management practices, watching three performances, and more.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre is onstage through January 27. 12 actors play 70 characters in this Shakespearean soap opera, in which a dark and troubling riddle starts the heroic adventure of one man’s lifetime, a story of love gained, lost, and gained again. Pericles features award-winning singer-songwriter-storyteller-professional whistler Andy Offutt Irwin as John Gower, the Narrator. Then, the company’s Romeo and Juliet begins February 3.

Illinoise begins January 28 in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. Clockwise from bottom, original company members Jonathan Fahoury, Matthew Johnson, Jennifer Florentino, Byron Tittle. Photo: Matt Murphy.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Katy Sullivan as Richard III. Photo by Jeff Sciortino.

At the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 2024 begins with a new musical production of Illinoise, beginning January 28. Grammy and Oscar-nominated Sufjan Stevens’s acclaimed album enjoys cult status for its lush orchestrations and wildly inventive portrayal of our state’s people and places—landing on “best of the decade” lists in Rolling Stone, NPR, and Paste. Now, one of today’s most in-demand directors and choreographers, Tony Award winner Justin Peck (New York City Ballet, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story), embraces the album in an ecstatic pageant of storytelling, theater, dance, and music, with a narrative crafted with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury. The virtuosic cast and a live band lead audiences on a journey through Illinois, from campfire stories to the edges of the cosmos.

Then, starting February 2, Chicago Shakes presents Richard III. Tony nominee, Paralympic champion, and bilateral above-knee amputee Katy Sullivan makes her Chicago Shakespeare debut in Edward Hall’s first production as artistic director. It will be the first major US production of the play to feature a woman with a disability in the title role.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is proud to present James Baldwin’s scalding and exultant masterpiece, The Amen Corner. This captivating American classic, brimming with music, proves it is faith and the love we have for our community that sees us through. Performances begin January 26.

Shakespeare at Notre Dame

Shakespeare at Notre Dame partner Actors From The London Stage returns to the road with a brand new staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, touring colleges and universities across the United States through March 2024. Starring Natasha Bain, Anna Crichlow, Sam Hill, Lucy Reynolds, and Michael Wagg, the Midsummer tour will visit the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, Grace College, SUNY Oswego, the University of Vermont, the University of Texas – Austin, Citrus College, and the University of North Alabama. Future tours include Twelfth Night (fall 2024) and Hamlet (spring 2025).

Shakespeare at Notre Dame’s Actors from the London Stage. Natasha Bain, Michael Wagg, Lucy Reynolds, Anna Crichlow, Sam Hill. Photo by Robin Savage.

Michaela Davis and Alan Coyne rehearse for San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s upcoming touring production of As You Like It.

San Francisco Shakespeare Festival

The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s Shakespeare on Tour production of As You Like It begins February 6. A troupe of five actors will travel to schools, libraries, and community centers throughout the state of California with an abridged production of this classic comedy. Director Sydney Schwindt has come full circle with the tour, having played Rosalind in the 2014 – 15 touring production. While most of the tour’s performances are booked for schools, check the festival’s website for soon-to-come public performance dates.

Public Obscenities at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 2023. Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Theatre for a New Audience

January 17 – February 18, Brooklyn’s Theatre for a New Audience presents Soho Rep and the NAATCO National Partnership Project’s Public Obscenities, co-presented with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Written and directed by Shayok Misha Chowdhury, Public Obscenities explores the pleasures and pitfalls of living in translation as it follows a queer studies PhD student returning to his family home in Kolkata with his Black American boyfriend. This “gorgeously precise” (The New Yorker) bilingual (English and Bangla) new play enjoyed a very successful run at Soho Rep in 2023 where it was a New York Times Critic’s Pick which hailed Chowdhury as “a writer with great promise.” Performances through January 21 are offered as part of Under the Radar Festival.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

In February, Baltimore’s Chesapeake Shakespeare Company takes a break from the Bard and delves ancient words of Aeschylus to bring forth a potent image of vengeance and the enduring impact of generational crime. In a world where political power and the ancient forces of destiny collide, The Oresteia asks if justice is even possible. Directed by Lise Bruneau and freely adapted by Ellen McLaughlin, The Oresteia begins February 16.

The Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare at Notre Dame, San Francisco Shakespeare Company, and Theatre for a New Audience are members of the Folger’s Theater Partnership Program.