Shakespeare's Tribe

Performing Shakespeare, Shakespeare in Performance

The Most Produced Plays in America…sort of.

September 28, 2014 § Leave a Comment

Theatre Communications Group Has a List!

Every season, Theatre Communications Group (TCG) – the organization of America’s not-for-profit theatres – puts out a list of the 10 most produced plays by its nearly 500 members. (Because they recognize ties, this year it is actually a top 11…) Although it covers only a segment of the American Theatre scene, (because it does not include for-profit, academic, or amateur theatres) its annual list is a quick way to get the pulse of what plays and playwrights are currently hot.

That is a very useful list for performers thinking about where to put their time and energy familiarizing themselves with scripts, with names to watch, and with sources for audition material. Because I know it gets used that way, every season I also put out my own annual rant reminding students and actors of a surprising omission.

And the winner is…

In this year’s list, published just last week, the top spot goes to Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike which has a whopping 27 productions scheduled across the nation this year. There is no sense in which it can said the American theatre marches in lockstep, however. A measly ten productions earn the second spot for Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley, and it only takes six productions to earn a place in the top 10, …er 11.

For the last season for which complete records are available (2013-14), 23 productions were enough to earn the top spot for David Ive’s Venus in Fur, which managed to hang on this year to a six-production tie for tenth place. Two other titles on the current list were also represented last year, but there is rather fast turnover from year-to-year. (The top production on the list a decade ago, for example, was The Drawer Boy by Michael Healey, which is scheduled for how many productions this year? Oooow, zero.)

The Problem with the List

The list is a little misleading, however, because TCG makes two exclusions to their counts: They do not include holiday shows, like the ubiquitous Christmas Carol and the current small budget alternative, The Santaland Diaries, the first of which would be the perennial winner of the top spot.

More surprisingly, they do not list plays by Shakespeare. Yet every year Shakespeare plays would rank quite high on the list if they did. In the current season, according to a title search using TCG’s data, 11 productions A Midsummer Night’s Dream would actually earn second place on this list if it were recognized.

The cast of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at CalShakes. Sept 2014.

The cast of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at CalShakes. Sept 2014.

Ten Tempests would make it third on the list, in a tie with Shanley’s play. Nine Hamlets would garner it fourth place. King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth would make the cut, tying with three other titles that have six productions each scheduled. Both As You Like It and Comedy of Errors are just one production shy of also making the list. That is eight Shakespearean titles in a top 11 list (with ties), while no other playwright is represented even twice.

All told, according to a quick search of the TCG website, Shakespeare has a total of 108 productions and/or adaptations in the 2014-15 season – actually a surprisingly low number – but still far above the second place finisher (Dickens at 46) and the top living playwright (Durang at 28). The year before (when the 450th anniversary of his birth fell) he received 127. The year before that, he received 153. The year before that 148.

My purpose is not to quarrel with TCG’s exclusions. They are open about their methodology, and their support of new American work. As they tactfully put it in a footnote, there are only so many ways to say that A LOT of companies do a version of A Christmas Carol each year – although almost every one of those is the work of a different adapter. There is also no comfortable way to note, year after year, that if they included Shakespeare’s plays he would dominate the list and push some living, struggling playwrights entirely off.

America’s Most Produced Playwright

When students ask me, however, about where to spend their time and energy, I am always quick to remind them the most produced playwright in America – who, by the way, has occupied this position for every single year of the last hundred years – is William Shakespeare. If I were going to study just one play in depth, I think I’d pick the most produced play in America over the last decade which is…A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Fall Classical Theatre Season in the San Francisco Area

September 2, 2014 § Leave a Comment

As summer winds down, so does the number of pre-modern plays on local stages, but there are a few festivals with seasons continuing into fall and a small number of additional productions. Of particular note are the two continuing productions by the Marin Shakespeare Festival and the upcoming Midsummer at CalShakes helmed by the wonderful young director Shana Cooper. I personally am also really anticipating the production of Shakespeare’s R&J, a four-person adaptation of Romeo and Juliet by Joe Calarco which will play at the New Conservatory Theatre Center.


The set for Midsummer at CalShakes

The set for Midsummer at CalShakes


Continuing until Sept. 7
PENTHESILEA adapted from Heinrich Von Kleist by Guilio Perrone
Actor’s Ensemble of Berkeley
Live Oak Theatre
1301 Stattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA


Continuing until Sept. 14
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
Presidio Main Parade Grounds
San Francisco, CA
also playing at McLaren Park – Jerry Garcia Amphitheater Sept. 20-21


Continuing until Sept. 14
Half Moon Bay Shakespeare Company
John L. Carter Memorial Park
Stone Pine Road
Half Moon Bay, CA


Continuing until Sept. 14
Curtain Theatre
Old Mill Park Amphitheatre
Mill Valley, CA


Continuing until Sept. 27
Continuing until Sept. 28
Marin Shakespeare Company
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre
Dominican University of California
890 Belle Ave.
San Rafael, CA


Kate McGrath as Miss Mabel Chiltern and Darren Bridgett as Lord Goring in Marin Shakespeare Company's production of "An Ideal Husband."

Kate McGrath as Miss Mabel Chiltern and Darren Bridgett as Lord Goring in Marin Shakespeare Company’s production of “An Ideal Husband.”

Sept. 3 – 28
California Shakespeare Theatre
100 California Shakespeare Theatre Way
Orinda, CA


Sept. 4 – 28
SAINT JOAN by George Bernard Shaw
Jewel Theatre Company
Center Stage
1001 Center Street
Santa Cruz, CA


Sept. 12 -28
Shakespeare Napa Valley
Veteran’s Memorial Park
Main St. at 2nd St.
Napa, CA


Sept. 26 – Oct. 19
Pacifica Spendrift Players
1050 Crespi Drive
Pacifica, CA


Oct. 17 – Nov. 15
Santa Clara Players
1505 Warburton
Santa Clara, CA


Oct. 18 – Nov. 19
African-American Shakespeare Company
Buriel Clay Theatre
762 Fulton St., #305
San Francisco, CA


Oct. 30 – Nov. 9
Sonoma State University
Evert B. Person Theatre
1801 E. Cotato Ave.
Rohnert Park, CA


Nov. 7 – Dec. 12
SHAKESPEARE’S R&J by Joe Calarco
New Conservatory Theatre Center
25 Van Ness Ave, LL
San Francisco, CA


Nov. 13-23
Arabian Shakespeare Festival
Royce Gallery
2901 Mariposa St.
San Francisco, CA


Nov. 14 – 23
Cal State East Bay
University Theatre
25800 Carlos Bee Blvd.
Hayward, SA


Nov. 14 – 23
Las Positas College
Barbara Mertes Center for the Arts
300 Campus Hill Road
Livermore, CA




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