Friday, February 14, 2020

Shakespeare in Washington, DC


One of the best things about living near Washington D. C. is all the amazing culture that is so close to me. In addition to the the history, great museums, monuments, and restaurants, there is an amazing theater scene -- more than 100 live theaters within a two-hour drive, from small community theater companies to the National Theater and the Kennedy Center. 

I've been to a couple of events at the Kennedy Center, which is stunning, but what I like most are smaller theaters. One of my favorites so far is the Folger Shakespeare Theater, part of the beautiful and historic Folger Library, on Capitol Hill. It's closing soon for a major expansion and renovation, but I was able to get a ticket for the current production, The Merry Wives of Windsor. 

I've been reading classics on a regular basis for more than ten years now, but my knowledge of plays is sorely lacking. I've only seen three plays performed live (King Lear, The Tempest, and Romeo and Juliet). I did take a Shakespeare class in college, but that was a long time ago, and to be honest I can't even remember exactly which plays we read! (I know there were four tragedies and four comedies). However, I am quite sure that I haven't read The Merry Wives. 

The Merry Wives of Windsor trailer

DC also has a regional theater company specializing in Shakespeare, though they perform other plays as well. The next play for the Shakespeare Theater Company is Timon of Athens, about which I know absolutely nothing (apparently it's not performed very often, but this production is gender-flipped and set in modern Greece). Much Ado About Nothing is scheduled for May, which sounds fun. The 2020/2021 season includes The Merchant of Venice and As You Like It, so I'm looking forward to both of those.


Timon of Athens trailer


So here is my question for all my dear readers who are well-versed (or slightly versed) in Shakespeare: how important is it to have read the plays before attending the productions? Normally, I don't like to know too many details about a play before I see it, for fear of spoilers. But Shakespeare is something else entirely. I haven't read any of the plays for years, and I don't want to be completely lost before attending. 

Readers, what would you suggest? Read the plays, or be surprised? And has anyone read or seen Timon of Athens

10 comments:

  1. the more you read S the better it gets... there are nuances and complications with the Elizabethan language usage and it takes a while to get used to it... imo, of course...

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    1. That's what I was thinking. It's not like a modern play where I would get all the references and innuendos.

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  2. I’ve only seen 2 or 3 live productions but it helps me even before i read a play or see a movie version to read the play in story form. ‘Stories From Shakespeare ’ by Marchette Chute has great re-tellings. I’ve also used Charles & Mary Lamb’s stories & Edith Nesbitt with my kids.

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    1. There are some Shakespeare editions that have the original text on one page and modern language on the facing page, I'm going to see if I can get one of those.

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  3. So glad you're enjoying the DC theater scene! I usher at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, so I've seen just about everything they've done for the last 12 years or so. (But I'm embarrassed to say I've not been to the Folger except for an experimental show in the library.) I do not make any effort to read the plays before I see them, and I usually get along fine. There may be scenes here and there that I don't follow, but the overall plot is not much of a problem. STC does a nice job in its playbill of providing context for the play (and the choices in the specific production), and there's always a helpful summary that I try to read if I'm worried I'll get lost. I do sometimes feel that I miss some of the nuances in the language, but I almost always enjoy myself unless the production happens to be a real dud.

    If you decide to try out some contemporary theatre, Studio (where I also usher) does consistently great plays.

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    1. I saw The Woman in Black at the STC, it was fantastic! They have so many great plays next season. I've only been to the Folger once, for Amadeus, which was wonderful. And I saw that Fun Home is coming up at Studio, I definitely want to see it.

      I've also started volunteering at The Little Theater in Alexandria. They just did A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. I volunteered at the box office, and I also volunteered with catering for A Christmas Carol. I also plan on ushering when I get the chance.

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  4. Here's what I need to do: My brother now lives in the DC area, so I need to come up for a week and visit him and you and see so many things that I missed the last time I was there!! And I miss you!!! It's been too long since we've gotten to hang out. I'm still bummed that I was never able to travel to Germany when you were there.

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    1. You should come! It's a little chilly right now but pretty soon it'll be time for the cherry blossoms. I'm not that far from DC, we can take the Metro. So many great things to do here!

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  5. Oh wow - I have my screensaver on my TV right now as I get caught up on my feedly, and the second I published that comment, the photo that popped up was the last one you and I took together in the parking lot at the Thai restaurant right before you left SA. Talk about good timing!

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