As the warm months of summer arrive, across the country, local communities are carrying on a long-running tradition of performing Shakespeare’s classic works in parks and outdoors venues. New Yorkers have the Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park series, currently playing in Central Park, while nearly every major city across the country has some form of The Bard’s work playing throughout the summer.
Now, London’s Globe Theatre will add its authentic touch of Shakespearean history to the seasonal mix, bringing four classic works to movie theaters across the United States, giving playgoers a chance to watch The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry VIII, performed at the modern reconstruction of Shakespeare’s original theatre.
Along with the Globe’s renowned acting troupe performing these four classic plays, presented in HD on the big screen, audiences will have a chance to go backstage and behind-the-scenes as each performance will have a 20-minute special video, including interviews with the actors and creative team at the Globe.
The New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley reviewed this production of The Merry Wives of Windsor when it was on stage, writing, “For like all of Shakespeare’s comedies, Merry Wives is streaked with a subliminal recognition that, only slightly rejiggered, a comic plot can become tragic. Thanks to [the director] and company, you’ll experience that same ecstatic goose flesh at the end of a comedy usually dismissed as minor.”
“We are delighted that these productions will be finding new audiences, who can experience Globe shows as if they were in the building,” Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, recently said. When it comes to Shakespeare’s works, there is no doubting that the Globe will deliver top-notch entertainment, and that’s exactly what the distributing partner, NCM Fathom, is banking on.
“Not many people in the States get to go to Shakespeare’s birthplace and see this prestigious theatre’s performances,” Dan Diamond, vice president of Fathom, told me. Along with Arts Alliance Media, Diamond’s organization will kick off the first of four movie theater events June 27th with a presentation of The Merry Wives of Windsor. “The acting is fabulous, the production quality is spectacular, and it’s something that people can’t see everywhere.”
Bringing theatrical events to movie theaters across the U.S. is something Fathom has been experimenting with since 2002, and now reaches audiences in around 600 locations. Currently, the all-star Lincoln Center production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company is playing in theaters, while Broadway’s Memphis and London’s Les Miserables recently sparked audiences’ interest in Broadway-style events on the big screen.
“The idea behind this is to begin to build another arts series in theaters that is distinctive and unique for Shakespeare fans,” Diamond said. He hopes that these unique events get people not only interested in seeing stage work, but also wanting to return to local cinemas, something that Hollywood studios have been trying through the use of technology, like 3D. “Over the course of time, what has occurred in movie theaters is that there are 15 movies playing in a given theater on a weekend night, but when we do these events, it brings back people that may not have been going in the past.”
The four performances set for movie theaters this summer were captured in 2010 at the Globe Theatre, starting with The Merry Wives of Windsor, being presented on screen June 27th, followed by Henry IV Part 1 on August 1st, Henry IV Part 2 on August 18th and rounded out by Henry VIII on September 15th. With more than 260 movie theaters nationwide taking part, you can find the nearest locations and buy tickets for the broadcasts at FathomEvents.com.
After seeing these four Globe events, Diamond hopes fans will then seek out live staged events around town. “There are so many local organizations performing Shakespeare in the park in different communities across the summer, this is a great opportunity for their local communities to get connected in movie theaters again and then go see their local performances.”
I originally wrote this article for BroadwayDirect.com.