Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has announced its upcoming 29th season — eight productions of plays with classic roots of one kind or another. The season includes three plays by Shakespeare and three adapted from American sources, as well as a classic work by a Black playwright and another year of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) for the holidays.
William Shakespeare’s King Lear kicks things off (Sept. 9-Oct. 1) with a modern-styled production. The title role of an aging king trying to preserve his heritage will be played by Jim Hopkins. It’s been 15 years since Cincy Shakes staged this great tragedy, so it should be an exciting production on the (relatively) new Otto M. Budig Theatre stage.
For the Halloween season, the company will present a newly commissioned script: a stage adaptation of The Living Dead (Oct. 14-29), the classic zombie film by George A. Romero and John A. Russo. Isaiah Reaves, a Northern Kentucky University grad whose work has been seen on several local stages, developed this piece during the pandemic. Actor Darnell Pierre Benjamin will be featured.
Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (Nov. 11-Dec. 3) was planned for Cincy Shakes’ cancelled 2020-2021 season, so it’s good to see it finally being staged. Hamill is the go-to playwright for theatrical adaptations of classic works. Her rendition for Pride and Prejudice had just opened in March 2020 when the shutdown cut it short; that play is coming back this season (May 20-June 18).
The cheeky riff on “beloved holiday classics,” Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) (Dec. 8-31). returns for its 16th iteration.
A world premiere, The Rewards of Being Frank (Jan. 27-Feb. 18, 2023) by Alice Scovell, will be co-produced with the New York Classical Theater to kick off 2023, with a production that will move to an Off-Broadway theater. It’s an adaptation and sequel to Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest.
Shakespeare’s tale of the battle of the sexes, The Taming of the Shrew (March 3-25, 2023), while costumed in Elizabethan style, will offer a modern take — a little irreverent and feminist.
Shrew will be followed by another witty Shakespearean comedy, the gender-bending As You Like It (April 7-29, 2023). The plan is to set this one in the 1990s with a musical-forward Brit Pop soundtrack.
Cincy Shakes’ season will close with Alice Childress’s Trouble in Mind (May 12-June 3, 2023). The pioneering Black playwright’s first play, written and debuted in 1955, won the 1956 Obie Award as the season’s best original Off-Broadway production. It’s the story of the troubled production of a fictional, anti-lynching Broadway play, staged by a condescending white director. Long ignored, the play has sparked new interest thanks to a recent staging by New York City’s Roundabout Theatre Company.
Cincy Shakes’ Brian Isaac Phillips says, "Trouble in Mind is a play written 60 years ago that feels like it was made for this day and this moment. The fact the play addresses issues of racism in the Broadway of yesteryear — and they are the same problems we are still struggling to overcome now — is a perfect example of how classical theatre can still be the art form that helps us transform into the best version of ourselves.”
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*Update: A previous version of this story said drunk Santa will be returning to Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!). The script is being revised this year and there will not be a drunk Santa.