Mr. Shakespeare goes to Washington

Fest to feature live theater, music, dance, film

WASHINGTON — More than 20 arts orgs from D.C. and elsewhere will participate in a six-month Shakespeare festival billed by one organizer as an unprecedented tribute to theater’s greatest genius.

The “Shakespeare in Washington” fest will run from January-June 2007 throughout the city in a virtual feast of live theater, music, dance, film and educational settings. It is aimed at showcasing some of the Bard’s greatest works as well as his influence on all other art forms, says Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theater here and curator of the event.

Suggested by Kennedy Center president Michael M. Kaiser, who has pledged the facility’s resources, the festival was announced at a June 1 news conference at the Folger Shakespeare Library, one of the participants. Kaiser says the center’s own programming during the festival will include an annual visit by the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as a production of “Romeo and Juliet” by the Kirov Ballet, a production of Verdi’s opera “Falstaff” by the Kirov Opera and “Shakespeare and All That Jazz” with Cleo Laine and John Dankworth.

“Only in Washington could such an event take place,” says Kahn, whose own theater will present “Richard III,” featuring Geraint Wyn Davies, along with its first ever production of “Cymbeline.” He praised the National Building Museum for its plans to commission teams of architects, set designers and others to reimagine and design sets for Shakespeare plays for a special exhibition. He also said a selection of landmark screen adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays will be unspooled by the American Film Institute’s AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Md.

In addition, the Folger will celebrate its 75th anniversary as home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection. Its Elizabethan theater will produce a musical production of “Lone Star Love or The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas,” among other events.

Other participants will include the Signature Theater (songs from “West Side Story” and other musicals based on Shakespeare), Washington National Opera (Verdi’s “Macbeth”), the Washington Ballet (a Bard focus to its “7×7” series of seven-minute-long premieres) and the National Museum of American History.

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