St. Louis celebrates Shakespeare with festival


Though the school year is wrapping up and finals loom, the SLU theatre department is still in full swing, staging Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” May 1-3. The well-known romantic comedy tells the playful and passionate tale of Rosalind and Orlando and is full of pompous characters. The play also contains several famous lines and is relatable for anyone who has ever been in love.

The first weekend the play showed, April 24-26, it was part of a special festival by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis (SFSTL) called SHAKE 38.  SHAKE 38 is a marathon Shakespeare event that began in 2001 as a 38-hour performance by more than 200 artists. The event has now grown to a five-day celebration where all 38 of Shakespeare’s plays are performed.

This year, the plays were performed at 38 locations throughout the St. Louis area by a variety of groups and individuals. The only guideline over the five days of performances was to make the play happen any way the director sees fit. All five days of the event and all 38 locations offered performances free to the public.

SHAKE 38 opened at 7:15 a.m. on April 22, with “Richard II” at the Missouri Botanical Garden and culminated with “Timon of Athens” at the Centene Center for Arts and Education. Among the other schools and groups performing Shakespeare’s works or helping with productions were Webster University, Washington University and John Burroughs School.

In addition to “As You Like It,” SLU contributed to three other performances over the course of the event. The first production SLU was involved in was on April 23, in the Xavier Hall Studio Theatre. Andy Southern and SLU Theatre members put on an evening production of “Cymbeline.” On April 24, SLU, along with SFSTL, staged “Measure for Measure” on the Xavier Hall Main Stage. April 25 brought “As You Like It” to the La Mancha Coffeehouse, and on April 26, the final day, SLU put on a morning, outdoor performance of “Titus Andronicus” on the DeMattias Hall lawn.In addition to the main SHAKE 38 festival, SLU partnered with SFSTL to spearhead a program called Student2Student: Measure4Measure. High school and college students were called to submit videos via the SHAKE 38 website with their own poetry. Students were asked to use quotes and ideas from Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” to create a piece using all styles of spoken word – from poetry to hip hop – to share what justice and equality meant to them. Submissions were due in early April, and selected videos were streamed live for the film premiere and performance during SHAKE 38.For those in St. Louis this summer, SFSTL’s main stage performance is “Antony and Cleopatra,” a story that impacted the entire Roman Empire, changed nations and shifted the balance of power in relationships.

From May 22-June 14, nightly, with the exception of Tuesdays, patrons can enjoy free performances at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park, beginning at 8 p.m. This year’s production is different from past productions SFSTL has staged because there is no back wall to the set, according to SFSTL Executive Director Rick Dildine.

But, have no fear, even with no back wall, the production promises gorgeous scenes with sculptural and elegant sets depicting Rome and Egypt, set around 30 B.C.

Before the productions, beginning at 6:30 p.m., there will be a family-friendly green show with short plays, a craft area, roaming performers and musical acts.

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