Reinventing the Wheel: Shakespeare for Community Theaters

If you’ve been following along with our blog, then you might have read our tips on saving your community theatre organization money. If not, check it out here!One of the tips we previously mentioned was to produce plays that fall under the public domain. We’re hoping to help you get the ball rolling and the wheels turning, so we’ve decided to take a closer look at one of the most mainstream public domain playwrights: William Shakespeare. Whether its reimagined stagings, modern speech adaptations or movie adaptations, the Bard is perhaps the most popular playwright to rework and remold.


Let’s start with movie adaptations. Some only allude to his plays, while others very closely resemble the original material; either way, there’s no use denying that Shakespeare has played a big part in box office hits over the years.

Here are just a few of the most popular movie adaptations to grace the silver screen in recent years:

  • Much Ado About Nothing (1993) directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Keaton and Denzel Washington.


  • Othello (1995) starring Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh.


  • Hamlet (1996) directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Julie Christie, Judi Dench and Kate Winslet.


  • Romeo + Juliet (1996) directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. (Perhaps the most modern reimagining, where the action now happens on Verona Beach between the now pistol-wielding Capulets and Montagues.)


  • 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) a loose (and extremely popular) adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, starring Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger.


These are just five of the countless adaptations and renderings of the Bard’s works. What really makes us keep coming back to him? His died almost 400 years ago; surely his works can’t really be relevant? Well they are. As Ben Crystal, author of Shakespeare on Toast says “He wrote about what it is to be human, to love, to lose, to be envious of your best friend’s girlfriend, to become jealous, to kill – he explored the human condition […] which is kind of timeless.”

CC Image by Brian
CC Image by Brian

This timelessness is exactly what is so appealing to writers, producers, directors, artists and actors! While the language is at times difficult to understand, these subjects, the human-ness of his works and the essence of his characters are immediately relatable to each and every new generation that graces the seats of a theatre, whether it be the seasoned theatre veteran or the newbie. Theatre is art, and art is life – Shakespeare’s works hit us right in the gut (in the best way possible) because we recognize ourselves in his work! I believe this is a big part of what makes them truly great.

As my final plea for you to consider staging and reimagining a Shakespearean play for your community theatre, I leave you a quote from Thomas L. Strickland, Artistic Director and Board President for North Fulton Drama Club: “Why reinterpret? Because Shakespeare wouldn’t want it any other way. An innovator is always looking for new tools, new ways to make the imagined real.”

Keep an eye out for our next blog post to read about theatre companies that are doing just that – finding new tools and ways to make the imagined real!

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