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Four actors in Shakespeare's plays
Ian Merrill Peakes & Kate Eastwood Norris in the Folger Theater's Macbeth (2008); Danielle Brooks in The Public Theater's Much Ado About Nothing (2019); Tasmin Greig in The National Theatre's Twelfth Night (2017).


Do you observe the holiday that is William Shakespeare’s christening and death day (also known to some as Talk Like Shakespeare Day)? Aye?! That’s fantastic- there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate with your fellow Shakespeare nerds on Thursday, April 23, even in the midst of our twenty-first century plague

One great way to celebrate is by popping some popcorn (or a plate of chewets for the traditionalists out there), settling in on the couch with your isolation pod, and tuning in to our 24-HOUR GLOBAL SHAKESPEARE MARATHON. There is unprecedented access right now to exceptional productions from all over the world… here are about 24 hours worth of our favorites (all free!): 

Start the day with a classic straight from Shakespeare’s world. Performed outside in a reconstructed Elizabeth playhouse just steps from where Shakespeare wrote and performed many of his plays, this production (directed by Dominic Dromgoole) will get you in the mood. Length 2 hours 51 minutes; available until May 3.

After the tragic end of Romeo and Juliet, watch this beloved comedy playing just miles down the Thames from the Globe at the National Theatre in London. This critically acclaimed hit by Simon Godwin stars Tamsin Greig as the reimagined Malvolia. Length: 2 hours, 40 min; available until April 30. 

Sticking with happy endings, head across the pond for a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Directed by Kenny Leon and featuring Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black) as Beatrice, this production is set in a contemporary world of Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. Length: 2 hours, 14 min; available until May 26th.

Make a dramatic departure to an adaption of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, directed by world famous Polish director Grzegorza Jarzyn. Perceived as a nightmare, this is an adaption in Polish (click on the English version button on left for subtitles). Length: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

If you’re looking for something more traditional—but no less magical—check out this 2008  co-production from Folger’s Theatre and Two Rivers Theater Company. This production was co-directed by Aaron Posner (director of Cal Shakes’ 2009 A Midsummer Night’s Dream & 2014 Comedy of Errors) and Penn (of Penn & Teller) . Length: 3 hours; available in Part 1 & Part II through July 1. 

Sticking with the adaptations, check out this absurdist take on the Shakespearean tragedy. Called a “collision between Shakespeare’s King Lear, Sesame Street, and Young Jean Lee’s own take on the theme of dealing with a father’s mortality,” this version focuses on Lear’s daughters. Length: 1 hour, 19 min

If you’re looking for something more traditional (or you caught Lear as part of Cal Shakes’ What We’re Watching This Week), check out the Stratford Festival Theatre’s 2016 production directed by Antoni Cimolino and staring Colme Feore. This stage production was later directed for film by Joan Tosoni. Length: about 2 hours, 30 min; available April 23 (at 4 PM PST) until May 14th. 

No Shakespeare marathon would be complete without a production from the RSC, located in Statford-Upon-Avon where Shakespeare was born and died and quarantined himself when the plague hit London. Though we highlighted this production last week as part of What We’re Watching, who can resist David Tennant in this production of Richard II, directed by Artistic Director Gregory Doran? Length: 2 hours, 37 minutes; available on on Marquee TV with a 14-day free trial.

If you’ve already watched Richard II, check out Marquee’s library of 18 RSC productions, including Antony Sher as Falstaff in Henry IV: Part I & Henry IV: Part II.

Okay, so this is technically three productions in one so it would put you way over the 24-hour mark, but we couldn’t miss this critically acclaimed series directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Harriet Walter stars in this all-female trilogy of Julius Caesar, Henry IV,  and The Tempest, all sett in a women’s correctional facility. Length: each about 2 hours; available on Marquee TV with a 14-day free trial. 

No Shakespeare marathon would be complete without a production of Hamlet. We’re recommending this production from Manchester starring Maxine Peak and directed by Sarah Frankcom. Length: 3 hours, 13 min; free with a library card.

Other awesome versions also available on Kanopy: the 1980 BBC production starring Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Patrick Stewart (length: 3 hours, 36 min) and the 2012 The Wooster Group cult classic that intertwines the 1964 Richard Burton film with a live stage version (length: 2 hours, 30 min).

If you’re more into building your own marathon, check out our handy streaming guide for a whole menu of options to pick & choose from. Let us know in the comments what your personal marathon looks like!

Live Events

If a day of live, virtual events is more your thing, look no further than Folger Theatre’s planned festivities, all of which will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube:

  • 11am – Why Do Fabulously Creative People Like Shakespeare?
  • 12:30pm – Home-Schooling at Shakespeare’s Table: The Meaning of Meals in “The Taming of the Shrew”
  • 2pm – In the Collection: Staxpeditions
  • 3:30pm – Whiteness Studies: A Primer for Understanding Shakespeare

You can also participate in the festivities by creating some Bard-worthy content of your own! Check out all the awesome ideas to Speak the Speech, Strike a Pose, Make a Picture, and Write a Sonnet, or Throw a (Virtual) Shakespeare Party. Use the hashtag #ShareYourShakespeare when posting your masterpieces. The RSC, American Shakespeare Center, and Irondale Ensemble also have awesome events going on throughout the day.

Meanwhile, we are encouraging folks to share favorite Cal Shakes photos from summers past with the hashtag #tbtShakespeare. 

However you decide to share your celebration, don’t forget to tag us @CalShakes so we can celebrate with you.

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