Last week, I was invited to attend a news conference to take place this morning at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The invitation was rather mysterious -- it did not indicate the purpose of the press conference. I was unable to attend, but a few minutes ago, I received a news release via email from the Kennedy Center. It announced a joint effort of several arts organizations to produce a six-month Shakespeare festival in the Washington area, beginning in January 2007. Here's the content of the news release:
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, at a news conference at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Dr. Gail Kern Paster, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre, and, Michael M. Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center, announced a citywide celebration of the Bard. Shakespeare in Washington, a six-month long festival running from January-June 2007, conceived by Kaiser and curated by Kahn, is a national event, an international celebration, a feast of theater, music and dance, as well as a joyful coming together of arts, artists and audience all for a single purpose: to celebrate William Shakespeare, a man of inexhaustible talent.
In introducing the festival, Paster said, “The Folger Library began as a gift to the American people. In 2007, as we celebrate our 75th anniversary, Shakespeare will again provide the nation with a worthy gift through this landmark festival. We are thankful to Michael Kaiser for his vision in creating this event and to Michael Kahn and all of you here on the stage who will so graciously bring it to life.”
“This celebration will give us a chance not only to visit the work of the city’s and the world’s most-performed playwright in a cultural context, but also to experience the continuing dialogue between Shakespeare and the other arts,” Kahn said. “I hope that this celebration will create an important conversation between the great works of the past and our turbulent present, and between the differing forms of expression that genius inspires.”
“Washington, D.C. is a city rich in cultural institutions and with educated, enthusiastic audiences,” said Kaiser. “It is most appropriate for this international city to celebrate an artist whose vision has been refracted through all artistic disciplines across the world. We are grateful to Michael Kahn for taking on the artistic directorship of this extraordinary celebration.”
“Thanks to the hard work of people like Michael Kaiser and Michael Kahn and Gail Paster, our city has become rich in cultural institutions and events that serve to entertain and enrich not just our residents but the millions of visitors to our city,” said Mayor Anthony A. Williams. “The Shakespeare in Washington festival will be a truly landmark event, and I thank everyone involved for their contributions to what will surely be a wonderful celebration of a great man.”
Shakespeare in Washington programming highlights:
· The Shakespeare Theatre will present productions of Richard III, directed by Michael Kahn and featuring Geraint Wyn Davies in the title role, and Cymbeline, its first production of the romance in its 20-year history.
· Folger Shakespeare Library will celebrate “Shakespeare in American Life,” commemorating its 75th anniversary as the home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection. Planned programs and performances include: a major exhibition under the same title; a musical production of Lone Star Love or The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas by Folger Theatre; a four-concert series of music inspired by Shakespeare and his times by the Folger Consort; a three-lecture series, Words on Will, bringing luminaries from the worlds of culture, arts, letters and enterprise to discuss Shakespeare’s influence on their lives and careers; and a wide array of outreach programs from Folger Education for Washington schools and area families.
· Washington National Opera will present Giuseppe Verdi’s great early opera Macbeth at the Kennedy Center Opera House from May 12 through June 1, 2007. General Director Plácido Domingo has cast two exceptional singer/actors in the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, acclaimed Georgian baritone Lado Ataneli and leading Italian soprano Paoletta Marrocu, with Maestro Renato Palumbo conducting and Paolo Miccichè designing and directing the new production.
· The Washington Ballet will present its highly acclaimed 7x7 series, introduced in 2004—seven world premieres, each seven minutes long, by seven innovative choreographers. The 2007 presentation of 7x7: Shakespeare will take place at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, where this visionary commissioning project will turn its attention to the wealth of inspiration in the works of the Bard himself. Each of the seven works presented will explore in abstraction the ideas found in Shakespeare’s diverse masterpieces.
· The National Museum of American History will co-present the Smithsonian’s Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) in a Michael Kahn-directed production of Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder (also known as the Shakespearean Suite) with the Kennedy Center. As the keeper of our nation’s treasures, the museum has a variety of artifacts and activities that convey the presence of Shakespeare’s legacy in American life. During the festival, the museum will showcase its collections and produce public programs that will explore the connections between Shakespeare and American history, including lectures about the connections between the Bard and the American musical theater and Duke Ellington and Shakespeare.
· AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center will present screenings of the most accomplished screen adaptations of the Bard’s plays—from Romeo and Juliet to King Lear and Macbeth—by some of the world’s most distinguished screenwriters and directors.
· National Building Museum will commission teams of architects, artists, set designers, theater professionals and lighting designers to re-imagine and design sets for Shakespeare plays. The teams’ efforts will be shown in an exhibition, tentatively titled Reinventing the Globe: Shakespeare for the 21st Century, to include drawings, models and computer renderings. The Museum intends to construct one or two sets on which Shakespeare plays will be presented, providing a complete thread from process to product to performance.
· Signature Theatre will present a special cabaret featuring songs from the American musical theater based on Shakespeare’s works in April 2007. Musical selections from West Side Story to The Boys from Syracuse to Two Gentleman of Verona will bring the musical theater’s interpretation of the Bard to life and will feature Washington’s best performers.
· The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will present several of the world’s best in ballet, theater and opera:o The Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre will stage the 1940 Leonid Lavrovsky production of Romeo and Juliet. Set to the familiar music of Sergei Prokofiev, the ballet has a libretto by Leonid Lavrovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Radlov and Adrian Piotrovsky, based on the tragedy by William Shakespeare.
o The Kirov Opera of the Mariinsky Theatre will stage Verdi’s opera, Falstaff.
o The Royal Shakespeare Company will present a work in the final year of its five-year residency.
The festival will include performances, exhibits, presentations and educational programming by the following organizations:· American Film Institute
· Corcoran Gallery of Art
· Folger Shakespeare Library and Theatre
· The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
· Kirov Ballet and Opera
· Library of Congress
· Master Chorale of Washington
· National Building Museum
· National Portrait Gallery
· National Museum of American History
· National Symphony Orchestra
· Royal Shakespeare Company
· Shakespeare Guild
· Shakespeare Theatre
· Signature Theatre
· Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra
· Vocal Arts Society
· Washington Ballet
· The Washington Chorus
· Washington Concert Opera
· Washington National Opera
· Washington Performing Arts Society
For more information on Shakespeare in Washington, please visit www.kennedy-center.org/shakespeare/
It's clear we have something exciting to look forward to in the early months of 2007.