To be or not to be… a woman

Ohhhh Shakespeare… I don’t want to get off on a rant here…

But here’s my hot (and not well received by the theatre community) take. Nobody should ever produce Shakespeare! Now, you might clutch your pearls and say, “Hold on now. Shakespeare. The bard. Greatest playwright.” Or something to that effect. I don’t care.

The harsh truth is that ALL of the plays have been done too much. And some of them have been done too much by a factor of 10. I’m looking at you Romeo & Juliet, Much Ado, and 12th Night. You see, here’s the thing. There are only so many productions of plays that can happen in a given time. And there are already way more plays than can be produced.

So, when another theatre company decides to trot out another production of Romeo & Juliet, they are not just deciding to produce Romeo & Juliet. They are actively deciding to not produce every other play that they could be producing. I would wager there have been countless plays and playwrights lost to history because everybody was too busy putting up another production of Much Ado.

You might suggest that maybe there just needs to be less Shakespeare. Surely we don’t need to just ban it all together. Here’s the thing though. Everyone has known that there is too much Shakespeare for decades. In fact, American Theatre magazine produces a list of the most produced plays every year, and they pusposely don’t count Shakespeare, because it would dominate.

The problem you see here is that the theatre community is not capable of policing itself. Shakespeare is the low hanging fruit. Your audience knows what it is. There is no royalty payment for the author. And while it might not win an AD accolades, it’s a safer bet than taking a chance on an unknown playwright that just has a new and original idea to offer.

And don’t even get me started on all of this, “Still relevant today” junk. Every time I hear a theatre company trying to justify how Henry V (or any of them!) speaks to some random part of present day society I shake my head. You really want to do work that focuses on current issues? Those plays are being written now by writers living in those places! That is much better than trying to shoehorn the meaning into a 400 year old play.

And that all gets us to the answer to the trivia question. It’s 17 percent. As if there weren’t enough reasons to not produce Shakespeare. There’s also that. Our photo today is a bunch of random postcards for shows that are not Shakespeare that were in my desk.

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