On Wednesday, April 26, 1564, in a market town 100 miles west of London, Mary Arden and her husband John took their newborn baby boy to their church to be baptized. The parish clerk entered the child’s name in the registry in the customary Latin: Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere.
Since English children in the 16th century were usually baptized about three days after they were born, scholars have long settled on April 23 as William Shakespeare’s “official” birthday. Which makes April 23, 2014 his 450th. So as the Bard himself would say, “embrace we then this opportunity” during this birthday month to take a look at the state of Shakespeare all around Missouri.
Not that Missourians ever have to wait for a milestone year to enjoy Shakespeare’s shows the way he meant them: off the page and live on stage. Our state is blessed with four troupes that have been performing Shakespeare’s plays every year for decades. The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival in Kansas City, Maplewood Barn Community Theatre in Columbia, and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis play outdoors during the summer. St. Louis Shakespeare performs indoors year-round. And MOShakes in Joplin and
The Art of Shakespeare in Springfield are on track to join them as annual Shakespeareans, with programs that launched in 2013 and will produce their second shows this summer.
Even when Missouri theater companies don’t perform Shakespeare every year, his plays are often a recurring staple of their seasons. Often showing up as well are other playwrights’ riffs on his works, like Paul Rudnick’s comedy I Hate Hamlet that The Little Theatre of Jefferson City produced last October. Moreover, because Shakespeare’s works have inspired composers and choreographers, many Missouri dance, opera, and instrumental and vocal music companies also have Shakespearean strings to their bows.
Written by Barbara MacRobie from the Missouri Arts Council.