What is it about Bill? He did his best work a long time ago. He often made up words when just the right phrase didn’t suit his purposes. He was born and died in the same small burg, hardly a worldly resume for a playwright. (On the plus side, he did have a wife with the same name as a famous movie star, Anne Hathaway.)
Several other American playwrights have come along since and earned the moniker of legendary status because of extraordinary bodies of work: Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams. But the Bard’s works remain in a rare, likely singular category of respect and awe. Shakespeare productions are beloved by audiences, his roles are coveted by actors of all ages, every director I have ever met has put directing a major Shakespearean play on his or her bucket list; his plays are still being performed no doubt on multiple stages all over the world even as you read.
William Shakespeare remains iconic and has staying power beyond any other writer in the English language. His bona fides include that he pretty much invented situation comedy, and many of his plays still elicit belly laughs today. His dark, murderous dramas probably are the seeds from which today’s growing array of psycho dramas (Hannibal, Criminal Minds, CSI) are grown.
It seems to me that Shakespeare is perfectly paired to New Orleans, also old and literary, a colorful city with famous partners, secrets, street drama and wafting laughter. Summer generally brings the widest array of WS’s work around town.
Last month, the uber clever NOLA Project mounted the comedy Much Ado About Nothing in NOMA’s sculpture garden. As is often tried, the group updated the setting … to a Southern plantation complete with Belles and to Civil War recruits. While staying true to Shakespeare’s script (changes are never an option!), they slowed the pace down a bit and delivered these delicious lines with just a touch of y’all … and our collective Southern ears gathered on the grass picnic-style understood every word.
Also on the boards this summer is the always-excellent Shakespeare Festival at Tulane. Marti Sachs and his collaborators are offering up an eclectic menu of things Shakespeare. If you didn’t see Merry Wives of Windsor, rush over on Saturday or Sunday to catch one of the final performances. Likewise amazing, entertaining and sometimes weird was the just-completed Shakespearean Jazz Show (a group of kids from Boston who have converted some of the Bard’s words into lyrics for a bluesy performance band.)
However, don’t miss the ever popular Romeo and Juliet in July. And if you were the kid who bought the Cliffs notes instead of reading the required book for English lit, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) spoon feeds you the quick version of all 38 plays in approximately 90 minutes.
Whew! Directed by Carl Walker, it is one of the funniest things going during this season of fabulous NOLA Theatre! Thank you, Bill! We believe!
Barbara Motley muses occasionally about local theater for NolaVie.