“Can one desire too much of a good thing?” asks Rosalind in As You Like It. Perhaps. Whether or not William Shakespeare, the comedy’s legendary playwright, espoused overindulgence, over the next two years he was the embodiment of it. Beginning on Shakespeare’s 450th birthday (April 23, 2014) and stretching until the 400th anniversary of his death (April 23, 2016), Portland’s Complete Works Project endeavored to stage every play he wrote — a total of 37 — at venues citywide. To paraphrase the Bard in The Merry Wives of Windsor, that’s the long and short of it.
At least 15 theater companies casted favorites like Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet in new light and shine the spotlight on the lesser-performed plays like Coriolanus.
The goal of the performances was to renew the public’s awareness and appetite for Shakespeare’s works, which are always relevant due to his knack for humanizing the struggles of historic figures and portraying less prominent characters as larger than life. Theater is a way to connect audiences with emotions, and staging the works at venues all over Portland will make the stories, characters and art form more accessible than ever. Or, as Shakespeare said most eloquently and succinctly in Hamlet, “The play’s the thing.”