2016 marked the 400-year death anniversary of the Bard, so festivals, films, stages of all sizes, and pub patios all saw their share of inspired Shakespeare fare this year. One may have predicted a bit of a theatrical letdown after last year’s deluge: Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet (still in National Theatre Live’s rotation), a major Macbeth movie starring Michael Fassbender, and many repeated productions locally (a continued theme); however, the taste for more Shakespeare, if anything, increased.
Dallas Theater Center rocked in the new year with the Joel Ferrell-directed contemporary, streamlined version of Romeo and Juliet. DFW stalwarts Liz Mikel and Christie Vela as the Nurse and Friar Lawrence brought their typical stellar performances while DTC newcomer Drew Foster’s burst out an unforgettable Mercutio. My review.
Fort Worth’s Stolen Shakespeare Guild, known for their straightforward, dependably executed Shakespeare and Shakespeare-inspired classical theater gave us an exceptional pair of plays, The Taming of the Shrew and John Fletcher’s (a Bard contemporary) female empowerment sequel, The Tamer Tamed both directed with thematic brilliance by Jason and Lauren Morgan. My review.
Shakespeare in the Bar hit its stride this year, and although there were some major leadership changes, the future is quite bright—especially anchored by the soul and wit of the project, Marcus Stimac. SITB produced As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar this year with AYLI as the strongest offering in their history. A beautiful spring evening outdoors, and a cavalcade of Chewbacca furs, luchadores, selfies, and the Carpenters’ “Close to You” amongst the characteristic SITB crowds (youthful and passionate) represented the recipe for renegade theater done right. Their rain-soaked Roman tragedy was the perfect coda for the end of the year while a nation was on the brink of its own political suicide. My reviews of AYLI and Caesar.
Keeping up their streak of excellence was Trinity Shakespeare Festival’s repertory of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale. The former was a Stephen Brown-Fried-directed period invigoration of the done-nearly-to-death tale of lovers lost in the woods, and the incomparable David Coffee made for a most bonny Bottom. Bob Lavallee’s gorgeous and envy-worthy set also deserves special mention. Founding Artistic Director T.J. Walsh’s Winter’s Tale made one forget the cruel summer outside. My reviews of Midsummer and Winter.
The venerable, yet new to me, Texas Shakespeare Festival in Kilgore celebrated its 35th anniversary by producing six plays for its summer slate with Henry V and The Merchant of Venice as its Bard entries. Director Stephen Wyman and Henry Ayres-Brown as the eponymous Henry put together the most outstanding stage production of the play I’ve ever witnessed. The Leslie Reidel-directed Merchant was also spot-on. My report on TSF.
Shakespeare Dallas continued its consistent upswing in quality this year with a Richard III (directed by Stefan Novinski and starring Brandon Potter) that although a bit thematically confused still channeled Potter’s hunchbacked magic from last year’s SITB iteration. SD’s fall production of The Tempest helmed by Artistic Associate René Moreno, and T.A. Taylor wielding Prospero’s staff was an emotional visual delight. It also launched into the fifth and final season of Complete Works a five-year project to produce stage readings of all the plays and sonnets. The wildly popular series saw Twelfth Night, King John, Hamlet, Richard II, Measure for Measure, As You Like It, and Pericles with the Danish tragedy (rarely seen in its entirety) as the standout. My reviews of R3 and Tempest.
A special highlight for me was the month-long death celebration, Shakespeare 400 a series of films presented in by TheaterJones, Shakespeare Dallas, AT&T Performing Arts Center, and partnering with Alamo Drafthouse. We screened the classics (the 1948 Hamlet with Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight), modern films (Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet and Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing), a foreign adaptation (Akira Kurosawa's Ran, based on King Lear) and works inspired by the Bard's plays/life (West Side Story, My Own Private Idaho, and Shakespeare in Love). Seeing these Bard flicks projected on giant movie screens was transcendent.
OUR 2016 YEAR IN REVIEW SERIES
- Thursday, Dec. 29: Comedy by Amy Martin
- Thursday, Dec. 29: Dance by Margaret Putnam
- Thursday, Dec. 29: Dance by Cheryl Callon
- Friday, Dec. 30: Classical music and opera by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs
- Friday, Dec. 30: Classical music by J. Robin Coffelt
- Friday, Dec. 30: Broadway, cabaret and vocal recordings by Jay Gardner and James McQuillen
- Friday, Dec. 30: Dale Wheeler, DFW's theater's biggest super fan, lists his favorite shows
- Saturday, Dec. 31: Theater by Janice L. Franklin
- Saturday, Dec. 31: Theater by Martha Heimberg
- Saturday, Dec. 31: The year in Shakespeare by M. Lance Lusk
- Sunday, Jan. 1: Mark Lowry's essay on the year in theater with a Top 10
- Sunday, Jan. 1: Columnist Danielle Georgiou looks back at her year
- Sunday, Jan. 1: Columnist Shelby-Allison Hibbs gives her wish list for 2017
- Week of Jan. 2: More looking forward to 2017