The Play That I Will Never Stop Seeing Is …

…again, you tell me. This post is a deliberate complement to yesterday’s post about plays that don’t get enough credit. So now, answer me this:

No matter how many different productions are made available, whether on stage, in the park or on film, whether by children, amateurs or the Royal Shakespeare Company, I will always try to see …. ?

Pick one.  It’s too easy to say “They’re all good, so, all of them.”  Don’t do that.  I plan on doing something with this information, so humor me. (If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of blogging its to clearly define your question so people don’t just ignore it and write about whatever interpretation of their question they prefer :)). I’ll start with The Tempest. It’s primarily for personal reasons, as I’m sure longtime readers know (it’s the first play I taught my children).  But it answers my opening question. I’ve seen it performed in the middle of a strip mall, I’ve seen it performed in the park by professionals, I’ve seen it done with puppets. When Julie Taymor’s movie comes out I will see it, I’m just not sure whether I’ll take the kids until I know how much sex and violence she put into the thing.  If a local group had done it this summer, I would have gone. I can’t lie and say Hamlet – I haven’t sat through Ethan Hawke’s version, though I’ve had plenty of opportunity.  And King Lear isn’t only Mt. Everest to play, it’s a challenge in its own right to watch repeatedly. I sat through McKellan’s version but skipped to the good parts of the James Earl Jones’.  Both those break my rule.

12 thoughts on “The Play That I Will Never Stop Seeing Is …

  1. My first thought was "As You Like It", even though I've only seen it a couple of times. The last time I saw it was the Bridge Project in London, directed by Sam Mendes, and it was just incredible. So I guess, really, I'll probably be disappointed by another cast. But in my head, I would see it every day of the week.

    I also could take a lot of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Twelfth Night". And probably "The Comedy of Errors".

    But all of this is assuming that the productions are good.

  2. Richard III, simply because it is my favourite. Although I have to admit that I have only seen three versions by now: The Loncraine/McKellan film, one performance at the local theatre and an old silent movie.

  3. I've seen more productions of 'Twelfth Night' than I can count and I'm not tired of it yet – just love that play!

    I will be boring and say 'Hamlet' – but it's the first Shakespeare I ever saw (Derek Jacobi on PBS when I was 15) and it keeps popping up at important points in my life. I met a close friend and my husband because of that play.

  4. I will have to say Hamlet as well. But I will also say Julius Caesar. It has some of the best speeches and one of the fastest plots in all of Shakespeare. So many different ways to do that play. I haven't seen one live yet, but I know that I could see many of them without tiring of it.

    Also, I could probably sit through more than one Henry V.

  5. I would never not see a Much Ado that was available to me. I must've seen that play twenty times by now, and I never get tired of it. Not only that, but a good production can wrap me up so completely that I get worried about the ending — even though I know what's going to happen! I love that feeling, of getting so caught up in the tense emotions that I'm holding my breath.

    Ty, I'm really interested in your choice — at the ASC, we've been having a lot of discussion about Caesar lately, because so many teachers tell us they hate teaching it. There's a perception that it isn't all that good, that it slows down to a crawl after Caesar's death (we know one teacher who actually stops teaching the play at that point). Now, I love the play, but I'm having to figure out how to convince teachers to love it so they can convince students to love it!

  6. I'm not sure quality enters into it, Angela, unless you're saying you'd walk out. Film's a little different, granted – you can always hit the stop button and never return. But presumably by going to see a performance you're going to sit through the whole thing regardless of quality. The question is more about what you chose, rather than the payoff.

  7. All of 'em! I'm a pretty keen theatre-goer so I'll always go to any Shakespeare I can, even if it's one of my less favourites (Macbeth, The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, would you please stand up?). 🙂

    But if you want specifics, anything from the Second Tetralogy of Histories. The whole Second Tetralogy. From Richard II right through to Henry V. I love the Histories so much more than the Tragedies or Comedies that it's not even funny; Henry V is my favourite play overall, the Henry IVs are absolutely the finest pair of plays ever written (sorry, Tony Kushner), and there's a lot to love about Richard II. They're all wonderful and I could happily sit and watch and/or read them all over and over and over and over and over again. Or stand, in the case of Shakespeare's Globe (where I'm limiting myself to three visits to each of the H4s this summer, just because I just don't have enough free time to see them as much as I'd like, and they're going to release a DVD of them next year anyway :D).

    *ahem* TL;DR – all of them, especially Richard II, Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V. :3

  8. (And if it really does have to be just ONE, make it Henry V. Sorry, I got so caught up in gibbering I forgot about your request to keep it specific! XD)

  9. Twelfth Night. There have been a couple of standout productions, and a whole bunch of also-rans, but I'll still keep going to see it.

    I'd also see every production I can of Much Ado. But probably slightly more anticipation of the Twelfth Nights. (Though you can be pretty guaranteed of laughs in Much Ado – Benedick's soliloqy is ALWAYS funny, even in an otherwise dreadful production – whereas it is possible to 100% stuff up Twelfth Night.)

  10. Cass: another ASC-er on the Geek's blog? That's awesome! I'm a three-time YCTC camper. Did you see the Caesar Session II put on this year?

    On the post topic: I don't know. All my top plays are able to be screwed up really, really badly (Merchant, Lear, Twelfth Night.) I guess I'll say Henry VI Part III, because I loved that so much when reading it and it's produced so infrequently I'd never want to miss an accessible show.

  11. Cass…

    I agree that the Caesar does in fact slow down after Act 3. (Though I find it odd anyone would chooses Caesar's death as the point of no-return…there is a little speech Marc Antony gives that perhaps a few people have heard of right after that!)

    I have even heard of productions that stop after that speech…but I am not certain just how that would work.

    Yet despite the slow down after the funeral, and the various anachronisms, the play speaks to me first as a play of oratory, as opposed to poetry, and that may be why so many think it is a "bad" play. But they fail to look deeper into both the structure and the plot.

    As a whole it is to me a play about extremes. Caesar's extreme positions. The extreme action taken to stop him. The extremes of the crowds as they waiver back and forth between who they are pissed at. The pre-mature suicides at the end. Extremes. Over reactions. And the various passions which lead any given one of the characters to such over reactions. (Even Portia seems to over do it quite a bit with that whole swallowing coals thing.)

    There are more dimensions in other words, to the play than most care to delve into. The characters don't screw around in this one. They are either in, or they are out, in various different ways. No meandering in the middle.

  12. Concur on 12th Night and Dick 3rd. I suppose I could say King John, since I've only seen it once in my life and that was an excellent production. I definitely have seen wretched Hamlets, Comedy of Error's and R/J's. As You Like It can be tricky too, although I saw a great version "Honor" at NYC's Prospect Theater as a Musical set in Medieval Nippon, NOT the Bryce Dallas Howard version, really, really Japanese. I also frankly have parts of the canon I fnd distatesful for their subject (Measure for Measure, anyone?) material.

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