Longtime fans of Shakespeare and novices alike can enjoy a celebration of the Bard this summer with the 24th annual New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane. Its flagship productions this year are The Taming of the Shrew from Jun 2-17 (a collaboration with Cripple Creek Theatre Company) and The Tempest from July 7-23. Other readings and performances will occur during the festival as well.

What makes Shakespeare still relevant in 21st century America?
Shakespeare was one of the architects of the English language that we speak today. But more importantly, his plays were some of the first to tell stories of real human behavior. Whether telling of kings and queens, young lovers, husbands and wives, corrupt politicians, parents and children, soldiers and clowns, his accuracy in portraying the human condition is deadly accurate.

What would you say to someone who’s new to Shakespeare and is a little intimidated by Elizabethan English?
Don’t be afraid. As evidenced by our experiences…in presenting full-length live professional performances of Shakespeare’s plays to 4,000-6,000 middle and high school students (many who have never seen a live play) each year, just give your ears 5-10 minutes and the language style barriers fall. These student audiences are much more difficult to engage than our summer audiences, but it still works…Shakespeare wrote his plays to be heard rather than read. The words come to life in performance.

What are you most excited about for this year’s festival?
We are thrilled to be expanding the outreach of our plays with the tour performances of The Taming of the Shrew. We are most anxious to get feedback from these audiences. The story of the “taming” of a woman, while sometimes quite humorous, also forces us to once again examine our attitudes and expectations relating to gender roles.