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Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's Death with a Dollop of Theater

"He was not of an age but for all time!" That line from Ben Jonson's famous eulogy to Shakespeare rings down the ages, and gains fresh resonance in 2016 as Bardolators across the world celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

While many folks with wanderlust might be planning a dream trip to the Bard's hometown in Stratford-upon Avon (and seeing his grave in Trinity Church cemetery), there are less extravagant ways to celebrate the Bard's legacy. New Yorkers, in fact, can expect some home-grown and touring Shakespeare productions in the next twelve-month that Shakespeare himself would beat a path to.

The most ambitious project, by far, will be the British import, King and Country: Shakespeare's Great Cycle of Kings. Directed by the Royal Shakespeare Company's artistic director Gregory Doran, it will land at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater in March as the final stop on its international tour. Originating at the Barbican in London, and then touring to China and Hong Kong before winging to New York, the four-play cycle includes Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part II and Henry V. This history tetralogy, in fact, was just staged last summer as part of the Lincoln Center Festival with Ireland's Druid Theatre Company, directed by Garry Hynes. Too soon for another staging? Not at all. Doran's new history play cycle is sure to have a very different spin than Hynes'. And you can bet it will be a big draw for theatergoers who like watching the hurly-burly of English history and listening to Shakespeare's verse spoken with rhetorical flourish.

If you aren't gung-ho about seeing the Bard's history plays back-to-back, and prefer Shakespeare's romances, a new version of Pericles will be presented by Theater for a New Audience in time for Valentine's Day. Directed by the British theater and film director Trevor Nunn, and with New York actor Christian Camargo playing the eponymous role, it promises to be a fresh take on the "mouldy tale" (That's Jonson's sour nickname for Pericles —though it hasn't discouraged the best creatives from reviving the early romance again and again.) Following on its heels, the great tragedy Othello will be mounted at the Classic Stage Company in late February and March in partnership with The Young Company, who hail from the graduate Theatre Arts Program at Columbia University. Then in April, as the weather grows milder, the Public Theater's Mobile Shakespeare Unit will resurrect the classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. After touring the production throughout the five boroughs, it will get a sit-down run at the Public's home at Astor Place.

So, New Yorkers, take heart. If you don't have the dollars or vacation time to go to Stratford-upon-Avon this year to mark the Bard's quadricentennial, why not bless his 400 year-old bones by simply going to a live Shakespeare performance in the Big Apple? After all, the play's the thing —and a Shakespeare play needs to be seen on stage for it to have a real beating pulse.

Here's a list of the aforementioned productions with a few others tossed in for consideration, including a few Shakespearean spin-offs:
King & Country: Shakespeare's Great Cycle of Kings. It will run in repertory at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater between March 24 and May 1. Directed by Gregory Doran, Christian Camargo will play the titular role. For more information and tickets, visit www.bam.org.
The Mobile Shakespeare Unit Romeo and Juliet. Directed by Lear deBessonet, performances begin on April 11. For more information, visit www.publictheater.org

Othello. The Classic Stage Company partners up with The Young Company at the East Village Theater. Performances begin February 29. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.classicstage.org. For more information and tickets, visit www.classicstage.org.

Pericles. Directed by the British theater, film, and television director Trevor Nunn, Christian Camargo plays the titular role. Performances begin February 14. For more information and tickets, visit www.tfana.org.

Something Rotten. The hit Broadway musical spins Shakespeare as a Renaissance rock star—and is still running strong at the St. James Theater. For more information and tickets, phone 877-250-2929 Curtainup's review.

These Paper Bullets. Based on Shakespeare's mature comedy Much Ado About Nothing, this production is a zany romp, complete with Beatle-style rock tunes. The run continues at the Atlantic Theater Company's Linda Gross Theater through January 10. For more information and tickets, visit www.atlantictheater.org. Curtainup's review
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