Shake a Spear, or As Will Likes It at 454

Today is the traditionally observed birthday of William Shakespeare. It is known he was born in 1564, which makes this the 454th birthday.

The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre earlier announced the lineup for the 2018 season.   The dates have now been announced.

The lineup for the June 8-July 8 season, which explores the theme of transformation, includes Shakespeare classics The Winter’s TaleHenry IV, Part One; and a family adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, as well as Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady. All four 2018 shows feature characters who undergo major changes — some for the better and others, perhaps, for the worst.

The season will open at 7:30 p.m. June 8 with The Winter’s Tale outdoors on the lawn of McAlister Hall on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady will open in Reynolds Performance Hall on June 15, and Henry IV, Part One, will open on June 22. AST’s family-friendly adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing will open June 28 in Reynolds and will also tour across the state in June and July.

The Winter’s Tale will be directed by Nisi Sturgis, an AST artistic collective member, Conway native and UCA graduate who was a part of the critically acclaimed tour of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced at the Goodman Theatre, Berkeley Rep and Seattle Rep.

One of Shakespeare’s late romantic plays, it follows the story of King Leontes, who grows jealous of his wife, leading him to make a series of terrible mistakes. “This is a rarely produced Shakespeare gem,” said Rebekah Scallet, AST’s producing artistic director.

Robert Quinlan, who directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in AST’s 10th anniversary season, will return at the helm of Henry IV, Part One. This adventurous tale is centered on the young Prince Hal, who prefers spending his time in the tavern with his fat and jolly friend Falstaff to time in castle with his father, the king. When rebellion stirs in England, he must make a choice as to where his true loyalties lie.

Scallet will direct My Fair Lady. This multiple Tony Award-winning musical premiered in 1956 and will be given fresh life in this intimate new production. A musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, My Fair Lady tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a flower girl who wants to transform her status by changing the way she speaks, and so goes to curmudgeonly speech professor Henry Higgins for assistance.

Enrico Spada will make his directorial debut with AST for the touring Family Shakespeare production of Much Ado About Nothing. With a cast of just eight people telling a reduced version of this classic tale, Much Ado is a romantic comedy with the great Shakespearean couple of Beatrice and Benedick at its center. This hour-long adaptation is perfect for families to enjoy together and will be performed on stage at Reynolds along with stops at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain, Hot Springs Farmer’s Market, The Joint in Argenta and The Griffin in El Dorado, among others.

Audiences will again be seated onstage for the three productions in Reynolds Performance Hall. AST’s 12th season will close on July 8 with a final performance of The Winter’s Tale.

For those who want a Shakespeare fix in the actual winter, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre will present As You Like It from February 6 to 24, 2019.

Containing some of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches, As You Like It is a comedy about love, exile, wit, and disguises all set in the Forest of Arden.  Orlando loves Rosalind. Rosalind loves Orlando. But Rosalind is disguised as Ganymede – who’s a boy! And Phebe loves Ganymede – who’s really Rosalind. Yet Silvius loves Phebe. And Rosalind’s best friend Celia loves Orlando’s brother Oliver. But Oliver hates Orlando. And Touchstone lusts after Audrey. Unfortunately, no one much cares for Jacques.

Celebrate romance as Shakespeare’s timeless comedy takes center stage at The Rep!  Directed by Giovanna Sardelli, it runs from February 6 to 24, 2019, with an opening night of February 8, 2019.

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