Before he leaves the 5th Avenue Theatre after the 2018 season, artistic director David Armstrong has a parting gift for Seattle: a citywide, season- and genre-spanning festival about the world’s most famous playwright. It’s called Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare, and is only the second iteration of Seattle Celebrates (the first was in 2010, when its subject was Leonard Bernstein, and 18 art organizations performed work by the legendary composer). No wonder; it’s a herculean task that took Armstrong years to organize.
This year, 30 arts groups are on board. “The level of collaboration and co-production in Seattle is impressive,” he says. “It’s using this great artist as a showcase for the world-class performing arts in Seattle.”
During the heart of the fest, from March through May, there are events from the “ridiculous to the sublime,” Armstrong says, including musical adaptations such as Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder suite and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet; spin-offs such as Seattle Shakespeare’s Shakespeare in Love; youth contributions that include Stone Soup Theatre Youth Conservatory’s Twelfth Night and Early Music Youth Academy’s Shakespearean Song Reimagined; not to mention The 5th’s own Kiss Me, Kate, Cole Porter’s clever musical take on The Taming of the Shrew.
In short, there’s something for everyone, including Armstrong. He’s looking forward to the Can Can’s burlesque version of Romeo and Juliet (“It will be tremendous fun,” he says) and Seattle Repertory Theatre’s all-female version of what he calls “the Scottish play.” When it comes to Shakespeare’s plays, he explains, “it’s bad luck in the theater world to call [this play] by its name.” Times, prices, venues—and adaptations—vary. seattlecelebrates.org