Cincy Shakes' 2019-2020 Season Boasts Both Modern and Classical Fare

From Shakespearean classics — with a modern twist! — like "Hamlet" to newer productions, like Lauren Gunderson's "The Book of Will," here's what Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has in store for their upcoming season.

click to enlarge Cincinnati Shakespeare Company - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

If you’ve been wary of subscribing to a Cincinnati Shakespeare Company season because you had a bad experience with the Bard in high school, the coming season might be worth considering. The company has a very elastic definition of classical plays; two-thirds of the shows for 2019-2020 have classic roots but were written after 2000.

Let’s start with the obvious: Three of the 10 productions are, indeed, by William Shakespeare. One is Titus Andronicus (Oct. 11-Nov. 2), with murder, mayhem and mutilation just in time for Halloween. Expect this one to get beyond speeches: The plan is for a Steampunk-inspired design. Once the blood and gore are mopped up, a sprightly comedy will be in place for the “early” holiday season: The Merry Wives of Windsor (Nov. 15-Dec. 7), Shakespeare’s concession to the popular appeal of the humor and bombast of Sir John Falstaff, who was much loved in the earlier Henry VI history plays. Of course, in this story, his schemes are overturned by a pair of smart women. As has been Cincy Shakes’ holiday tradition for 15 years, there will be another incarnation of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) (Dec. 13-29), which pokes fun at “beloved holiday classics.”

If Merry Wives doesn’t offer enough of women taking the upper hand, consider the third Shakespearean production of the season: Hamlet (April 10-May 9, 2020). This production, to be staged by Melinda Vaughn from Utah Shakespeare Festival, comes with a major twist: The Prince of Denmark will be played by a woman for a freshly contemporary take on one of the Bard’s greatest dramas.

click to enlarge Sara Clark as Hamlet in Cincinnati Shakespeare’s 2020 production of “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare playing April 10-May 9, 2020 at the Otto M. Budig Theater. - Photo: Mikki Schaffner Photography
Photo: Mikki Schaffner Photography
Sara Clark as Hamlet in Cincinnati Shakespeare’s 2020 production of “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare playing April 10-May 9, 2020 at the Otto M. Budig Theater.

 Beyond those productions, the season is stuffed with more broadly defined classics, but sustains a feminine point of view. The season’s summer offering, Christopher Walsh’s Miss Holmes (July 19-Aug. 4, 2019) from 2016, reimagines the master detective as a woman. With her stalwart companion, Doctor Dorothy Watson, the pair refuse to be contained by Victorian conventions. It will be followed by a 2007 classic, Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County (Sept. 6-28, 2019), winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for best play. The funny, vicious and often harrowing story revolves around yet another woman, Violet, the pill-addicted, manipulative matriarch of the Westin family. It will be a wild ride.

Even more recent work will kick off 2020: Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way (Jan. 24-Feb. 15, 2020). The 2012 play is set in 1964, as Lyndon B. Johnson takes on the presidency in the aftermath of John Kennedy’s assassination. LBJ was a larger-than-life character from Texas who had to keep a fractious nation together as the contentious Civil Rights Act became reality.

Kate Hamill’s 2017 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Feb. 28-March 28, 2020), staged by Cincy Shakes veteran Sara Clark, will provide more female perspectives as it retells the story of the circuitous path to true love between witty, willful Lizzie Bennet and strong-minded, arrogant Mr. Darcy

The season concludes with a 2017 play by Lauren Gunderson, one of America’s most current prolific playwrights. (Her work has been seen onstage at the Cincinnati Playhouse, Ensemble Theatre and Know Theatre.) Her play The Book of Will (May 22-June 14, 2020) is the story of how Shakespeare’s plays were published in the famous First Folio of 1623 — after much contention between actors, bootleg knockoffs and a printer’s deadline. If not for this volume, many of Shakespeare’s plays would not have survived.

A footnote to Gunderson’s production: Cincinnati Shakespeare has commissioned her to write a new script based on Hamlet, which will be workshopped here during the 2019-2020 season and possibly be included as a full-fledged production in the company’s 2020-2021 season, as well by their collaborators, California Shakespeare Theater and Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Massachusetts.

Season subscription packages are now on sale, starting at $284 (that’s for seven tickets to preview performances). The season “extras,” Miss Holmes and Every Christmas Story Ever Told, are included in some, but not all, subscriptions. Single tickets go on sale on April 1. Call the box office for more information: 513-381-2273, x1, or go to

Children’s Theatre announces its 2019-2020 Season

While we’re at it, here’s what the Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati has planned for its four-show season at the Taft Theatre. The nation’s oldest professional theater for young audiences kicks off its season with a musical adaptation of Casper the Friendly Musical (Oct. 12-21). This is a world premiere, adapted by TCT’s artistic director, Roderick Justice. For the holiday season TCT will respond to the hundreds of requests it regularly gets to present A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec. 7-16); 2019 is the 54th anniversary of the beloved animated TV special.

Lizards will be leapin’ in 2020 with Annie JR. (February 29-March 9), an adaptation of the show aimed at younger audiences. “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” for the optimistic orphan as she hunts for her parents, but she knows the sun will come out “Tomorrow.” The season will wrap up with Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (April 25-May 4), the story of another strong-willed little girl with an especially vivid imagination. 

Season subscriptions for all four shows start at $43; single tickets go on sale on Aug. 30. Visit for more.

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