Atlanta Shakespeare Company Completes Entire Shakespeare Canon

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In March 2011, when The Atlanta Shakespeare Company's repertory performances of ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ and ‘Edward III’ open, the ASC will become the first theatre company in America to complete a 39-play version of the Shakespeare Canon which includes a full-scale professional production of ‘Edward III’ rather than a staged reading.

The Atlanta Shakespeare Company at The Shakespeare Tavern

“At that point I had a choice to make: should we continue working our way toward completing the canon slowly, performing one rare work a year for the next few years, or should we do it all in one season and make a celebration out of it?” -Jeff Watkins

When its first production of ‘Timon of Athens’ opened on November 6 2010, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company celebrated a major milestone: over the course of its 25-year history the company has produced every play in Shakespeare’s First Folio. Not content to celebrate just one big milestone during their current season, however, the company has an even more notable accomplishment in sight for this upcoming Spring. In March 2011, when its repertory performances of ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ and ‘Edward III’ open, the Atlanta Shakespeare Company will have produced the entire Shakespeare canon.

While planning the 2010-2011 season last year, Artistic Director Jeff Watkins realized that his company only had a few Shakespeare plays left to perform for the first time. “At that point I had a choice to make,” he says, “should we continue working our way toward completing the canon slowly, performing one rare work each year for the next four years, or should we do it all in one season and make a celebration out of it?” Watkins and his acting ensemble ultimately decided to go for the gold and announced their ‘Canon Completion Project’ for this season. September’s production of ‘Henry VIII’ marked the kickoff for the remaining rare plays to be produced this season, which company members have dubbed the ‘final four:’ ‘Henry VIII,’ ‘Timon of Athens,’ ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ and ‘Edward III.’

With its Canon Completion Project the Atlanta Shakespeare Company joins the ranks with a few larger American companies who take pride in having completed the entire Shakespeare canon. The Atlanta-based ensemble will become the first theatre company in America, however, to complete a 39-play version of the Shakespeare Canon which includes a full-scale professional production of ‘Edward III’ rather than a staged reading.

Performing at the New American Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta, GA, the professional ensemble identifies itself as a member of the ‘original practices’ movement in Shakespeare performance. Thus, it will also become the first modern company in the world to produce Shakespeare’s entire canon in a staging style informed by Elizabethan and Jacobean staging techniques.

Actors, staff and audience alike express great pride in the accomplishment and look forward to the future. As Watkins put it in his toast celebrating the First Folio completion, “Congratulations to everyone here. Let’s go through this great book again and again, shall we?”

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JEANETTE MEIERHOFER
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