“Is All Our Company Here?”: Shakespeare Festivals as Fields of Cultural Production

  •  Dan Kulmala    


I have traveled to and enjoyed the productions at seven Shakespeare festivals in the following states: Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. And over these years I have concluded that we miss something valuable in our understanding of the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries by investing our academic, scholarly interest in performances by the elite theater groups rather than considering the totality of Shakespeare’s material influence and cache. Whether culturally inculcated or universally absolute or a multifaceted mixture of both of these factors, Shakespeare as a material good enjoys the remarkable status of high art while also circulating within both large-scale and restricted cultural investment. Simply, as a marketing tool, Shakespeare is entrepreneurially ubiquitous. And as I traveled to these Shakespeare festivals, I found myself wrestling with this question about these productions: Is this “small-time” Shakespeare less than the “big-time” Shakespeare of London, Toronto and New York? In general, we have good reason to maintain a hierarchy of power for dramatic performances. How do we justify our critical approaches to theatrical performance, and how do we justify “star quality,” the establishment of elite theater status, and economic investment if we include “small-time” Shakespeare as fodder for critical engagement and academic interest? Durant, Oklahoma or London, England? Predictably, if one were to plan a trip to see Shakespeare anywhere in the world, that person would probably NOT look to Nebraska or Oklahoma as the vacationing hub of Shakespearean live drama. I intend, though, to have readers rethink such decisions.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1925-4768
  • ISSN(Online): 1925-4776
  • Started: 2011
  • Frequency: quarterly

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