After a summer with hundreds of outdoor performances everywhere, from Central Park where Al Pacino starred in The Merchant of Venice to the Parking Lot which featured Julius Caesar and Love’s Labor’s Lost, Shakespeare is back and he’s alive and well and living in NYC. Here are some highlights:
- Not only is Shakespeare back, but so is Al Pacino, but this time The Merchant of Venice has moved to Broadway. In addition to Pacino, the show features Lily Rabe as Portia, Byron Jennings as Antonio, the Merchant and Jesse L. Martin as Gratiano.
- The Public Theater, which produced Merchant, recently introduced their Mobile Unit, which will bring free Shakespeare to audiences with little or no access to the arts. For their first production, the Mobile Unit will tour Measure for Measure, directed by Michelle Hensley, to correctional facilities, homeless shelters, facilities for battered and abused women, drug rehab facilities, senior centers, centers for youth-at-risk, and other social service organizations that support the disadvantaged, underserved, and marginalized.
- Meanwhile at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), there will be lots of Shakespeare. In March, Edward Hall’s all-male troupe, Propeller, will bring The Comedy of Errors to the Harvey Theater. Then in April, England’s Cheek by Jowl’s Macbeth comes to BAM, directed byDeclan Donnellan, and starring Will Keen in the title role. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: later in April, Sir Derek Jacobi takes on the title role in King Learin a major new production from director Michael Grandage and the renowned Donmar Warehouse.
- I know it’s along way off, but BAM has also announced that Kevin Spacey will star in the title role of Richard III in February 2012. R3 will be directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes with whom Spacey worked on the film American Beauty.
- But the really big event doesn’t happen until next summer when the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 44 member acting ensemble will perform five plays in six weeks at Park Avenue Armory as part of Lincoln Center Festival. The event takes place July 6 through August 14, 2011. All five productions are currently playing in repertoire to critical praise at the Company’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Included are: As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Antony and Cleopatra, and The Winter’s Tale. These five plays will be performed on a specially-built thrust-stage based on the newly transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where the audience is wrapped around three sides of the action bringing actors and audiences closer together (see below).