Capitalizing on the many fans of classical drama who also seem to love show tunes, the Shakespeare Theatre Company will inaugurate in its 25th-anniversary season a musical-in-concert series spotlighting shows of the recent past based on Shakespeare's plays.
"The Bard's Broadway" - which will be launched with Rodgers and Hart's "The Boys From Syracuse" (adapted from "The Comedy of Errors") and the 1971 rock musical "Two Gentlemen of Verona" - is one of the innovative features of the company's 2011-12 season. The Shakespeare has been run since its inception by Michael Kahn, and this quarter-century season will be a celebration of his leadership, company officials say.
The add-on events for the upcoming season include a free, day-long event: a 12-hour reading by classical actors of the three "Henry VI" plays. And the artistic director will serve as host of "Classic Conversations With Michael Kahn," four evenings in the company's Sidney Harman Hall during which Kahn will discuss Shakespeare with guest actors.
"This is a moment to mark Michael's 25 years of contributions to this theater and this company," says Chris Jennings, the troupe's managing director. For his part, Kahn says that running the company has presented him with new opportunities and reinvigorated his love of directing Shakespeare. "I never thought I was always going to stay," he says in a phone interview from Dallas, where he is directing a production of Charles Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet" for the Dallas Opera. "But every couple of years there was another challenge that we got to explore, and here I am."
So how long will he keep the job? It's a natural question at a retrospective moment, and Kahn, who's in the neighborhood of 70, is indeed contemplating the end of his reign, even though no departure date has been set. (His contract runs for three more years.)
"I'm not Franco," he says with a laugh, referring to a certain Spanish dictator who lingered in his job. "I have brought in a lot of potential artistic directors over the last five years, and so I think it will be a good transition. I haven't said when I'm leaving, but this is a big anniversary and I don't imagine I'll be having another one."
The season will begin on Aug. 18 in Harman Hall with the annual Free-for-All production, this year, Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." That will be followed in September in the Lansburgh Theatre with Kahn's production of Jean-Francois Regnard's "The Heir Apparent," in a new adaptation by David Ives ("The Liar"). In November comes Ethan McSweeny's "Much Ado About Nothing" in the Harman, and then in January 2012, P.J. Paparelli stages the classic version of "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" in the Lansburgh. Kahn directs Eugene O'Neill's "Strange Interlude" in Harman Hall in March 2012. The season closes with Carlo Goldoni's "The Servant of Two Masters" in the Lansburgh in May 2012 and Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" in Harman Hall in June.
"The Boys From Syracuse" will run Nov. 4-6 and Galt MacDermot and John Guare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona" will be presented on Jan. 27-29. No directors have been named. "This year it seemed appropriate to do it if we were going to spend a little extra money and raise a little extra money," Kahn says. And besides, he adds, "I think it will be fun."