Shakespeare 2007: Arts Groups Plan Ambitious Citywide Festival

The Tiny Ninja Theater is scheduled to perform at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage during the six-month-long
The Tiny Ninja Theater is scheduled to perform at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage during the six-month-long "Shakespeare in Washington" festival. (By Xina Nicosia)
By Nelson Pressley
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, June 2, 2005

William Shakespeare will take over the nation's capital in 2007 as the Kennedy Center spearheads a six-month, citywide festival to be called "Shakespeare in Washington."

The festival, announced yesterday at the Folger Shakespeare Library, is the brainchild of Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser and will be curated by Shakespeare Theatre Artistic Director Michael Kahn.

The programming, which Kaiser and Kahn first discussed two years ago, will have a prismatic effect as Shakespeare gets filtered across artistic disciplines. Major theater, opera and dance companies will take part, as will choral groups and museums.

In an interview Tuesday at his Kennedy Center office, Kaiser said, "It is truly an amazing array of arts organizations, each looking at Shakespeare from their particular perspective."

Kahn, speaking Tuesday from New York, said, "My job really now will be to get these institutions to put events together that will connect."

"Shakespeare in Washington" is scheduled to begin in January 2007 and continue through June of that year. Although not all of the programming is certain -- and significant changes have been made even this week -- a number of major players are in place. At the Kennedy Center, the Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre will present its legendary 1940 production of "Romeo and Juliet," and the Kirov Opera will offer Verdi's "Falstaff."

The Washington National Opera will present Verdi's "Macbeth," starring Lado Ataneli and Paoletta Marrocu as the murderous couple. The Royal Shakespeare Company -- a regular tenant of the Kennedy Center, as are the Kirov and the Washington National Opera -- will conclude its current five-year contract with the center by bringing a show (or shows) yet to be announced.

At the Shakespeare Theatre, recent Helen Hayes Award winner Geraint Wyn Davies will reunite with director Kahn to star in "Richard III," which will be followed by the company's first production of "Cymbeline." Kahn also will direct an all-male production of "As You Like It."

"I've been thinking about it for a while," he said.

The festival will take pains to avoid duplicate programming -- no dueling performances of "Richard III" from the Shakespeare Theatre and the RSC, for example -- but the Kennedy Center will offer its own "As You Like It," a family-friendly adaptation as part of its Imagination Celebration. That will be staged in what will by then be known as the Family Theater, formerly the American Film Institute's theater.

The AFI, now at the Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, intends to show an array of less straightforward Shakespearean movies, and the Library of Congress is also likely to include films in its exhibit. Kahn says he is even considering a Maori film version of "The Merchant of Venice."

The Folger Shakespeare Library, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2007, announced that it will produce a country musical called "Lone Star Love, or The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas," with music by the Red Clay Ramblers. The show has been in development for almost 30 years but was recently produced off-Broadway. The Folger Library will also present an exhibit called "Shakespeare in American Life."

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