Around the World: Seeking a Shakespeare Summer 2020
For many theatre lovers, summer is the season for celebrating Shakespeare at one or more of the hundreds of festivals that stage the Bard’s work in theaters around the globe.
Most of those festivals are shut down this year due to concerns about the pandemic, and plans to travel to and attend them have been dashed – leaving all the players and their worldwide audience deeply disappointed.
But, not so fast! Devotees of the Bard are proving themselves to be resistant to cultural shut down. While the thrill of sitting among enthralled theater goers attending live performances of the classic dramas and comedies, a wide range of brilliant stagings are being streamed online.
Granted, watching a virtual “Hamlet” is a different experience than seeing actors upon the stage breathe life into the beloved characters. But it is still a source of satisfaction for all who seek a Shakespeare summer.
And, whether you stream performances for free, pay a fee or make a donation, your online attendance supports the summer Shakespeare festivals through their challenging closures.
Most highly recommended is the online program presented by Canada’s Stratford Festival, which is currently streaming a program of superb productions, including “Hamlet,” which is offered for free through July 2. In keeping with Stratford’s annual programming, the online schedule includes plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries.
Stratford’s online programming changes weekly with the addition of new performances that are streamed for free or available on demand for a fee, so you can binge watch – as you would while attending live performances at the festival -- or you can extend your ‘visit’ to the festival by watching one a week over the entire summer.
If what you love about attending live performance includes the shared experience of being in an audience of other people, Stratford offers you the pleasure of watch parties, which you can attend by yourself or with friends who share your passion for Shakespeare.
For Stratford’s online programming, your destination is https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/. And, while you’re visiting the site, take advantage of the festival’s remarkable resources for Shakespeare study, including analysis of the plays, performance guides and other guides and workshops that are designed to enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the beloved Bard’s work, live and times.
If you want to extend your online visit to include a sense of place, the site provides a virtual tour of the festival’s four theatres, the beautifully landscaped grounds and the surrounding community and nearby attractions.
As reflected in its extensive and sophisticated online programming, Canada’s Stratford Festival is one of the world’s top tier Shakespeare festivals and it is – under ‘normal’ circumstances -- one of the most popular Shakespeare-related tourist destinations. But if you want to follow a virtual multi-destination itinerary to explore more locations for Shakespeare performances, workshops and historical sites, there are dozens of appealing sites with unique attractions.
For example, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, under the auspices of the University of Illinois, is conducting a multi-session Shakespeare Summer Camp to explore the Bard’s language and texts. You can access them at https://illinoisshakes.com/education/camp/
Alabama Shakespeare Festival website features a series of performances of favorite Shakespearean monologues by actors who’ve worked at the actual festival during seasons past. There are also creative workshops to participate in. You can access all at https://asf.net/favoriteactors
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival celebrates the Bard with a variety of enlightening conversations and interactive workshops for to augment appreciation of Shakespeare and underscore the relevance of his work to present day life. You can join in at https://osfashland.uscreen.io/catalog
If you want to ‘travel’ further afield and experience some of the places most closely associated with Shakespeare, you can sprint overseas to Great Britain to enjoy a virtual tour of the famous Globe Theater at https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/discover/about-us/virtual-tour/ and of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theaters at Stratford-Upon-Avon at https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/discover/about-us/virtual-tour/.
And, if you want to enjoy a worthwhile exploration of Will Shakespeare’s hometown, take the Tour Guides Travel Guides’ 30-minute virtual walking tour of Stratford-upon-Avon offered for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1yAb05NOsU. Posted in 2016, this virtual tour is still valid, taking you to the key Shakespeare locations that have been favored tourist destinations through the ages. The first stop is Shakespeare’s birthplace, authentic and well-maintained as part of a larger museum. But, the free virtual tour is really a walk by visit to exteriors. For a peek inside the five Stratford-upon-Avon properties most closely associated with Shakespeare – including the Bard’s birthplace -- visit https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/visit/video-tour-houses/.
These virtual forays will certainly whet your appetite for real visits. You can use the Websites to plan for next year’s travel adventures. Meanwhile, have a happy Shakespearean summer 2020 online.