Visitors to Paris can find a perfect English Shakespeare experience (with French subtitles) in this idyllic garden setting

Photo Credits: Tower Theatre Company / Ruth Anthony

jardin-13
It’s hard to believe that it took the world’s best-selling author 200 years to conquer France.

And yet, William Shakespeare’s plays were only properly staged in Paris from the 19th century when, after some rudimentary musical adaptations of his comedies, his tragedies finally triumphed in the city’s theatres.

From there, his success went unchallenged, and up until today the shadow of the Bard haunts the City of Light.

And, if you are happy to get off the beaten track, you will find a hidden treasure among the majestic trees of the Bois de Boulogne, where a small open-air theatre, established in 1857, bears Shakespeare’s name.

King Lear by William Shakespeare, Tower Theatre Company performing at the Jardin du Shakespeare, Paris June 2015
Open from May to September, the Théâtre de Verdure du Jardin Shakespeare hides within its leafy walls an open-air stage surrounded by five thematic gardens.

Each of these is cultivated with plants and flowers that remind us of a specific atmosphere depicted in some of the Bard’s most iconic settings – from Macbeth’s Scottish moors to The Tempest’s Mediterranean landscapes.

In 1991, in response to a growing demand for English performances – quite rare in Paris at that time – the theatre started a partnership with the London-based Tower Theatre Company, asking them to stage an English version of a Shakespeare play.

King Lear by William Shakespeare, Tower Theatre Company performing at the Jardin du Shakespeare, Paris June 2015
The performance was widely acclaimed and the great enthusiasm shown by the audience has brought the company back to Paris every year since then.

Initially aimed at meeting the demand of a large Anglo-Saxon community, this project now aspires to make Shakespeare – already very popular – more accessible to a French audience.

To further broaden the appeal, since the end of the ’90s the plays have been performed in English with French subtitles.

Nevertheless, Penny Tuerk, former artistic director of Tower Theatre, confesses that it was a challenge to understand French tastes and preferences.

King Lear by William Shakespeare, Tower Theatre Company performing at the Jardin du Shakespeare, Paris June 2015
During their first years in Paris they only performed comedies, since history plays were less comprehensible for a foreign audience unfamiliar with English history.

Later on, they introduced revised versions of the historical plays that they decided to set in modern times with a recognizable social and political context.

Curiously enough, they realized that some of Shakespeare’s historical plays, especially those dealing with Roman times, a popular field of studies in French schools, were very well received in Paris.

Every season, three matinées are dedicated to schools, with a special Q & A session with the director following the performance.

This year it’s Romeo and Juliet’s turn to fall in love under the Parisian sky.

volpone-50
Go here for more information on the Théâtre de Verdure du Jardin Shakespeare
.

For more Shakespeare in Paris:

• Every season, the famous Comédie Française, the only state theatre with its own permanent company, stages Shakespeare plays that are well worth seeing. Performances are in French.

• Visit Shakespeare and Company, the renowned English-language bookshop located near Notre-Dame. Don’t forget to ask for Shakespeare’s portrait to be stamped on every book you buy before surveying your purchases in their coffee shop.

• If you are interested in French translations of Shakespeare, stop by the Librairie Théâtrale, a bookshop that offers an impressive collection of plays and specialized theatre books.

A feast of fairies and fun in Forest Park as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream charms St. Louis, Missouri with colour, comedy and music

Images by J. David levy

Helena and Lysander
Helena and Lysander

St. Louis, Missouri is perhaps best known for the Gateway Arch, baseball and high crime rates – lesser remarked upon is its ever-growing artistic vibrancy. Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is an example of that fervor, bringing theatrical magic to the schools and streets of the city.

Oberon and Titania
Oberon and Titania

Every June, the organization stages a Shakespeare play in the historic Forest Park, inviting people of all generations to enjoy timeless entertainment. Many families and friend circles make it a tradition to attend, and often picnic as they await the dramatic unfoldings.

Midsummer Photo 3
Hermia

For their 16th season, director Rick Dildine brings fresh ingredients to a play already famous for enchantments: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As the sky darkens over Shakespeare Glen, the glowing stage draws everyone inescapably into a dreamy world in which comedy, romance and fairies cast their collective spell.

Puck
Puck

A three-story sylvan background intrigues spectators from the onset. Painted doors line each level of the structure, so mortals can disappear into the woods and fairies can transcendently gaze down.
Dildine says: “The whimsical approach to the set helps take us on a journey through the woods and into our dreams.”

Titania Singing
Titania singing

Colorful costumes gradually adorn the stage; Titania’s (Nancy Anderson) ethereal blue gown and Hermia’s (Cassia Thompson) candy pink dress pop like enchanted flowers. The Disney-esque costuming reflects Dildine’s underlying goal to “make a play that would allow kids to fall in love with theatre”.

Midsummer Photo 2
From beginning to end, the actor ensembles execute the three intertwining stories with crystal clarity and bring oomph to their roles at each comedic beat. Cassia Thompson, Rachel Christopher (Helena), Peter Winfrey (Demetrius) and Justin Blanchard (Lysander) vividly express the rough course of love, as jealousy and confusion simmer into boiling conflicts that send the audience into laughter with every jab.

Angry Hermia
Angry Hermia

The shenanigans of the crude thespians are brought to full comedic potential, and Puck’s impish movements (performed by twins Austin Glen Jacobs and Ryan Alexander Jacobs) manifest the play’s whimsical humor. Original songs by Peter Mark Kendall appear throughout the performance, establishing a fanciful mood with a pleasant folk sound.

Midsummer Photo
Impressively, in a seamless blend of acting and musical talent, the actors are also the musicians and vocalists, crooning verses about nature, lostness and dreams. The engaging music, filled with violins, guitars and accordions, brings a romantic texture to the story that honors the Bard’s melodious ingenuity.

Bottom and Accordion Player
Shakespeare’s otherworldly imagination resonates luminously in Forest Park – and surely the director’s wish for younger spectators to fall in love with theatre has come true.

mechanicals
The Mechanicals

A Midsummer Night’s Dream ended on 26 June, but go here for more on the production and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Saturday 23 April 2016 saw Stratford-upon-Avon’s annual Shakespeare Parade celebrate not only the 452nd birthday of the Bard but also the 400th anniversary of his death

Naturally, Shakespeare Magazine’s Stratford-upon-Avon correspondent Emma Wheatley was on hand to record the festivities in words and images…

1.Parade2016
The crowds gathered in the town centre as a funeral bell tolled and a floral tribute was carried on a wheeled bier.

unspecified-18
Escorted by four masked characters evoking comedy and tragedy, the tribute was placed in front of the dais as it awaited the morning’s parade.

3.Parade2016
All the participants of the parade took their places, many dressed in bright colours ready to join the celebration.

unspecified-19
It was time for the Head Boy of the King Edward’s School, which Shakespeare attended as a boy, to bring the quill to the parade and lead the parade to Holy Trinity Church, where the quill will remain for the next year.

unspecified-17
Before the parade set off, local town criers called for “Three cheers for William Shakespeare!”
With each cheer, a confetti cannon was fired to mark the celebration.

unspecified-16
And then a New Orleans Jazz Band surprised the crowded to lead a jazz funeral procession!

unspecified-17
Intriguingly, the jazz funeral was inspired by the James Bond film Live and Let Die. “The jazz funeral has a clear change of tempo,” explained Town Clerk Sarah Summers, “from sombre remembrance to lively celebration, full of music, dancing and expression. That contrast seemed exactly right for our parade which marks both Shakespeare’s birthday and his death.”

unspecified-18
The jazz band got the crowd in a party mood and headed off on the parade route before joining up with the students of King Edward’s School along with other local schools as they led the way to the church.

unspecified-16
Following the band were local dignitaries, businesses and guests – from Stratford and around the world. Many were dressed in Shakespearean costumes.

After the parade, many events were held around the town.

These ranged from stage fighting to mask-making to a 40-minute performance entitled Wondrous Strange by Mimbre. They gamely provided overviews of Shakespeare’s plays through acrobatics. A particular highlight was the retelling of the historical plays with a fight over a crown.
unspecified-17
The evening closed with a spectacular fireworks display that saw an effigy of Shakespeare’s face set ablaze and the sky lit up.

unspecified-18
Finally, a midnight candle-lit vigil was held at Shakespeare’s grave to honour the man himself and bring the day’s celebrations to an end.

unspecified-19