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The Bard on Our Boards


Over the years, ArtsEmerson has hosted a few focus groups to hear people’s perceptions of and desires for our programming. One frequent piece of feedback we’ve received is the request we do more traditional plays. And so consistently we have. We would like to take this production of Twelfth Night as an opportunity to look back on Shakespeare’s presence here at ArtsEmerson. From original practices to innovative new interpretations, we have seen a lot of the Bard on our boards.


For those of you who like your Shakespeare in doublet and accompanied by Renaissance music, we hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy our ongoing relationship with Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Their Hamlet came to us in 2012 as a part of its journey to be performed in every country on earth. Their simple touring set and renaissance music were carefully crafted to bring you the pop-up performance feel that Shakespeare’s touring company might have once set up in a market place. They came again in 2014 with Joseph Marcell as King Lear. We were also fortunate enough to screen a live recording of their Tony Award-winning Twelfth Night, starring Mark Rylance, as part of their Globe on Screen series.

Starting in our first season, we brought Shakespeare’s classic texts to life in contempo­rary contexts with world renowned artists at the helm. In 2011 F. Murray Abraham came to the Cutler Majestic Theatre as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice in a sleek production from Theatre for a New Audience. Then in 2014, Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company brought their Midsummer Night’s Dream, accentuating the magic of the fairy world with the use of Handspring’s beautiful puppets. Also in this category are the many productions that we have screened in the Bright Family Screening Room. Our partnerships with the Royal Shakepeare Company and the National Theatre Live have brought beautiful productions, including King Henry IV, Love’s Labours Lost and, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet.


Finally, there are the Shakespeare productions that take the plays and explode what we know about them, while celebrating the core dramaturgy that make them great. The most recent example of this was the Isango Ensemble performing a South African interpretation of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream opera. It was the same story we know so well but in a multilingual, musical experience that brought a new perspective to the story. Filter Theatre’s fast and fluid Twelfth Night falls squarely into this category.


If you’re a fan of the classics traditionally produced or remixed, keep an eye open. On our stages and in our screening room we’ll continue to bring these stories with the hope that their universality will continue to challenge and inspire us as they have for so many years.

ArtsEmerson Presents Filter Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night on the Paramount Theater main stage from JAN 20 – 30. More information is available by clicking here

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