Shakespeare on the Road!

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The 4th July is upon on us, and I’ve just landed in Kansas City for the start of Shakespeare on the Road, an epic road trip all around North America which aims to tell the story of the extraordinary phenomenon of the Shakespeare festival. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has teamed up with the University of Warwick and Misfit, Inc. and together we will visit 14 Shakespeare Festivals, across 25 states and 10,000 miles. A dedicated site launches during 4th July and you can sign up for updates at

The line on the map shows our journey, from the middle of the States to the south, across to the west, up to the north west, back across the centre to the east, up north in to Canada, and then back down south and finally finishing in Washington DC.

SOTR map

Every summer from sea to shining sea – from spit-and-sawdust performances in local parks to slick professional productions in reconstructed Elizabethan playhouses – the Bard busts out all over the USA. Nearly every state (including Hawaii and Alaska) has its own seasonal festival devoted to the playwright: there are more dedicated Shakespeare companies in California alone than there are in the whole of the UK. Shakespeare may not have been born in the USA, but from the founding of the republic to the present day, he appears to be immensely at home here. Shakespeare on the Road aims to portray Shakespeare’s place in contemporary American culture through the voices of artists and audiences across the continent. It’s a reverse pilgrimage, celebrating the USA’s astonishing range of Shakespearean performance. Along the way, we speak to actors, audience members, creatives, community organizers, philanthropists and hot-dog sellers about what Shakespeare means to them and their community. During the next two months we will be gathering together material for a radio documentary, a book, and the international collections of the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive.

I’m joined by my excellent friends and colleagues Dr Paul Prescott (University of Warwick) and AJ and Melissa Leon (Misfit,inc. and Honorary Fellows of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust). We will be doing talks at each of the festival venues, telling the story via social media and presenting a 450th birthday gift to each of the festival partners in the form of a plaque from a cedar tree that used to grow in the garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace (it had to be felled because it was becoming a danger to public safety). We are delighted that Greg Wyatt (Sculptor in Residence at St John the Divine Cathedral, New York) has designed, made and donated these beautiful objects.


In his generous endorsement of the project, Professor James Shapiro of Columbia University (and author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare) writes:

“I’m thrilled to hear of your undertaking the strenuous and brilliant idea of Shakespeare on the Road. The Shakespeare festivals that stretch across my homeland are, and for many decades have been, at the heart of Shakespeare in America. Yet their story remains untold and for the most part unknown. Your project will not only be a boon to scholars (all too few of whom are aware of what is going on around them in big towns and small across the USA), but also a major contribution to public awareness, on both sides of the Atlantic. This is a perfect project for 2014.”

Our Partner Festivals and itinerary are as follows:

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City, MO 4 – 6 July 2014

New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, New Orleans, LA 9 – 11 July

Shakespeare at Winedale, Winedale, TX 13 – 15 July

Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, UT 17 – 19 July

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga, CA 24 – 26 July

Livermore, CA 27 July

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR 29 – 31 July

Montana Shakespeare Festival, Bozeman, MT 1 – 5 August

Door Shakespeare Festival, Door, WI 7 August

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Chicago, IL 8 – 9 August

Harlem Shakespeare Festival, NYC, NY 10 – 14 August

Shakespeare and Co., Lenox, MA 15 – 17 August

Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, ON 19 – 21 August

Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Nashville, TN 23 – 25 August

American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA 27 – 29 August

Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington DC 29 Aug – 1 Sept

Join us as the journey unfolds at @BardintheUSA #BardintheUSA

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson
  • Rafael Luis

    It’s really admirable this project! You’re showing us how great is the Shakespeare’s influence nowadays, once he’s contributed unmeasurably to the development of English as it is, although many American (and English) people don’t know that. Besides that, his importance goes beyond England’s borders…and so goes English language: all over the world!

  • Raymondo

    Yet another yankee twit with much bravado and little brain. Leave english history, literatue and drama to the english and devote your efforts to understanding why the gun toting goons of america are so detestable !
    Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, others just grate. !

  • Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.

    This is truly pathetic. As the editor of the Shakespeare Newsletter pointed out, Edmondson and Wells’s book, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, claims they are 100% certain the businessman from Stratford was the author– but they neglected to say what their evidence is.

    Pieces of a tree are the evidence??

    Could we possibly keep religion separate from scholarly exploration of the fascinating authorship question? Your “relics” prove only that you are trying to lead a cult, and suppress true scholarship.

    Faculty Expert on Shakespeare for Media Contacts, Georgetown University

  • janetcosta

    Following your travel adventures… You’re in a rather nasty weather glitch, but I’m hopeful it’ll get better as you go. Enjoy N’awlins…

  • Patrick D Peterson

    I was at the Shakespeare Festival in Kansas City on the 5th and saw you give your presentation. I have been accepted into the Mary Baldwin College Shakespeare Graduate Program and the ASC which I see is also on your tour. It is an expensive program but after visiting I just can’t see not spending as much time as I can studying the works of Shakespeare. I want to say I am very interested in your work and you mentioned you wanted to hear about our experience and why we were there so I wanted to contribute. My English group of College graduates and I go to the Shakespeare festival in Kansas City every year as a tradition, hanging out sometimes with each other after not seeing them for months. We bring food and drink and spend wonderful hours talking, watching, and experiencing Shakespeare that we all love so much. Last night it rained and poured but we stuck through it together for the show and because the event makes our friendship even stronger. This was my first time seeing The Winter’s Tale and it was such an amazing experience. I am very interested in your tour and will check in constantly. Dearest Regards and Hopeful success in finding what you want to find.


  • Erin Risch Zoutendam

    I read about your project earlier this summer and hoped you would make it to Heart of America. We went last night, and The Winter’s Tale is one of my two favorites of the plays, so I will be excited to read your thoughts!

  • Roderick Keegan

    Hurrah! Wishing you an amazingly worthwhile journey. I’ve told the Bookshop’s Facebook Friends about the project. Stay safe – and awake (particularly when driving those long, long roads…).

  • vj

    Hello, I live near Los Angeles and am wondering if there are any events open to the public during your visit to Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga, CA 24 – 26 July? I love all things Shakespeare and would be interested in coming along. Valda

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