Friday, July 08, 2011

Shakespeare is Looking Scarce...At Shakespeare Festivals

John Moore of the Denver Post looks into the the interesting statistic that "only 37 percent of the productions offered by the 10 leading Shakespeare festivals in North America were written by their namesake."

He talks to some of the leaders of several of the festivals. It seems some of these artistic directors are struggling with anxiety over changing demographics.

That's the perpetual challenge every artistic director at every theater faces: how to turn young people like Merrily Hill Smith into lifetime patrons. She's 34, a savvy theatergoer and a Denver Center Theatre Company subscriber. And she admits it: She just doesn't dig Shakespeare.

"I love going to the theater, but I don't get excited about Shakespeare," she said. "Sometimes it's hard to follow, and I like to see more contemporary shows I can more easily relate to."

She called the Denver Center's "Ruined" "the best thing I have seen in my life." Her favorite Shakespeare play is "A Midsummer Night's Dream" — and she's not alone. The Denver Center's February staging was seen by more than 20,000, second only to last season's "A Christmas Carol." At May's Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival, 114 of the 400 short scenes performed by students were from "Midsummer." Colorado Shakes' 2007 staging remains the biggest-selling production in Artistic Director Phillip Sneed's four years in Boulder — "and by a huge percentage," he said.

Puck and company are clearly the gateway for turning young theatergoers on to Shakespeare.

But, as the article points out, you can only do so many productions of Midsummer.

H/T Playgoer

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