“Do you do traditional Shakespeare?”




We are asked this question all the time…”Do you do traditional Shakespeare?”  This week The New York Times is exploring the issue of whether or not updating the setting of Shakespeare’s plays is advantageous or not.

It’s really rare for us to produce a show set in the Elizabethan era. For example, we’re resetting “Much Ado About Nothing” to 1953 on the Riviera.

What do you think? Do you gain a better understanding of Shakespeare’s plays if they’re set in a different context? Or is something lost by not sticking to the original time and place of the play?

Let us know what you think.

READ: “To Renovate or Not to Renovate?” – New York Times


  1. Rachel says

    I think that the glorious thing about Shakespeare is that it is just as meaningful, and moving, and usually quite funny, in almost any time period you set it in. If it wasn’t able to make sense when it’s set in different time periods, Shakespeare wouldn’t have been the amazing writer that we know he is. There is something that my school drama teacher drills into us all the time; Shakespeare is timeless. No matter what time period we set Romeo and Juliet in, it will still make me cry. Same for Hamlet, or Antony and Cleopatra. And the same goes for the humor. You could set Twelfth Night in an obscure English boarding school and it would still be hilarious, as long as it had a good director and good actors. Although, it does sometimes help modern audiences when the show is set in a more modern setting. Basically, setting the plays in a modern setting has only helped enhance the experience, at least from what I’ve seen.

  2. Charlotte says

    Personally I absolutely love to see Shakespeare in new interpretations. One of the first Shakespeare in the Parks I saw was Macbeth, and they achieved the Scottish kilts with plaid flannel shirts tied on upside down and armor was made out of old tires. I was hooked, and every time I go I hope to see something that great again. Oh, the Elizabethan sets and costumes are fine and sometimes I’m in the mood for that, but taking the play someplace different is what wows me. Of course, good actors and directors overcome the language that our ears aren’t so used to, but I think it can help overcome the sometimes difficult-to-understand language if it’s placed in settings that we can better relate to.

  3. Kris Fulsaas says

    I totally agree with Rachel and Charlotte: the strength of Shakespeare is that the plays’ themes, characters, plots, and humor are easily understood no matter what era the production is placed in. I love the creativity with which Seattle Shakespeare and Wooden O stages and produces these beloved plays! The trailer-park setting of Taming of the Shrew is my favorite recent example: it’s the only production of this play that I’ve seen that makes some of the more cringe-worthy elements of this play (starvation and sleep deprivation to tame a strong woman—hello?) work in a truly inspiring rehabilitation of a play that might otherwise come across as too dated to be relevant.

  4. Torie says

    I love Shakespeare done well. I have enjoyed both Elizabethan and other interpretations. It often helps if I am familiar with the play but it far more important that the actors and director know it inside out. If so, the audience cannot help but enjoy the language in any setting the artists dream up!

  5. Charlotte says

    That trailer park Wooden O Shrew was the best! I took a friend who had never ever seen Shakespeare and she thought it was great. We saw a carnival version in Ashland this summer so I expected something of the same flavor, but it was nowhere near as much fun as Wooden O.

  6. Lee says

    There is a reason Shakepeare’s plays are considered classics. Their themes are universal to all cultures and exist in all time periods. While I have no problem seeing his plays in a traditional setting, I don’t think it hurts the work at all to experiment with different time periods, and indeed that might help attract people who would not otherwise go to see a Shakespearean play. A different time period might even help those who haven’t studied his works make sense of what is being said. It can also be quite fun too. I have not forgotten The Two Gentleman of Verona set in modern day Orange County and the surfer dude with the bulldog as a variation on the jester type character. It only made me laugh harder even beyond what the words the character was saying.

  7. Kirsten says

    I don’t think Shakespeare needs to be set in any particular time and place. The true genius of his works is that the themes, the stories, and the characters are relevant in any age. Whether the theme is love, greed, envy or war, it works in many settings. Shakespeare’s plays are about timeless. Seattle Shakespeare does a wonderful job of choosing plays that are relevant to our current events and tie us to our history. Please keep presenting these great works in ways that make the audience think about their own lives and the world around them.