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William Shakespeare wrote 38 plays in his lifetime, and it's a testament to that body of work that almost anybody in the English-speaking world can name at least one of them with ease — Shakespeare's contemporary Marlowe is not so lucky. The reason for their continued popularity is Shakespeare's much-vaunted "universality," which means these works for the stage still resonate with us even after 400 years and more. But there's something more than that to it; these works belong to all of us in a very real way. We quote them unconsciously, we compare our leaders (favorably and unfavorably) to Shakespeare's kings and conspirators, we see ourselves as Romeo or Juliet when we're teenagers, and we fear becoming Lear when we age. Shake-38 2011 gives us — all of us — a chance to reconnect with these plays outside of the theater and in our own lives. From 6 a.m. Tuesday till 7 p.m. Wednesday (May 24 and 25), each of Shakespeare's plays will be read by teams of volunteers at locations throughout the metro area, including Tower Grove Park's Turkish Pavilion (10 a.m. Tuesday, Hamlet), the Saint Louis Art Museum (3 p.m. Wednesday, Twelfth Night) and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts (4 p.m. Wednesday, Merchant of Venice). Readings will also take place in pickup trucks, at pubs and out in the open on the street, depending on who has signed up. Additionally, Kimberly Rosenstock's new play Every Other Hamlet in the Universe will be read at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Old Orchard Center. The purpose is to celebrate our shared cultural heritage together, but Shake-38 also serves as a tasty appetizer for the first night of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' performance of The Taming of the Shrew (8 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, in Forest Park). Admission is free everywhere, and the full schedule is at www.shakespearefestivalstlouis.org.
Tue., May 24; Wed., May 25, 2011

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