By Isaac Butler
I've long had this theory that while the rest of the country seems to suffer from a Shakespeare Problem-- which is to say, overproducing Shakespeare to the detriment of the rest of the classical repertory-- and while New York City is a great city of all sorts of kinds of theater, New York is generally a lousy town to live in as a Shakespeare Fan. Aside from British imports, there's just not a lot of great Shakespeare here.
I grew up in Washington, D.C., which, by contrast, is a great town to see Shakespeare, and used to be a great town to see other classics as well. When I was growing up, there were two (and eventually three) companies with "Shakespeare" in their name producing at least three of the Bard's plays a season. On top of that, Arena Stage used to define itself as the place to see Ibsen and Shaw and Strindberg, and the Studio mounted productions of Chekhov with some regularity. They take classical acting training pretty seriously down there too.
So while NYC is a great town for all sorts of things, it's not a great town for Shakespeare.
I recently decided to see whether this theory had any merit by looking at Stagegrade and Critic-O-Meter's archives to see how we've faired over the past few years w/r/t Shakespeare. Combined, the archives go back to roughly April 2008. They don't include, for example, Stuhlbarg's Hamlet or Patrick Stewart's MacBeth, as those were both earlier in the 07-08 season.
So, as always, take these with a grain of salt. I've been hunting through the archives manually, and might have missed something. And these are only the plays that have gotten at least five reviews from the outlets we cover. The plethora of other Shakespeare productions (like Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, etc.) aren't on this list. But that's actually part of the point. I'm talking about mainstream NYC theater here. And if there's shows i'm missing from that time, let me know in the comments and I'll try to put them in.
Let's see what the archives show:
NUMBER OF SHAKESPEARE PRODUCTIONS: 27
NUMBER OF SHAKESPEARE PRODUCTIONS MINUS IMPORTS: 16
NUMBER OF SHAKESPEARE PRODUCTIONS MINUS IMPORTS AND UK CO-PRODS: 13
WHAT PLAYS ARE PRODUCED? (* = import, + = UK Co-prod):
Missing from this list?
Antony and Cleopatra, Comedy of Errors, Coriolanus, all of the Henry's, King John, Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Pericles, Richard II, Richard III, Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida, Two Gentlemen of Verona.