Woodstock Shakespeare Festival’s Pericles opens July 26

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Mounting some of the Bard’s more obscure, rarely seen plays seems to be trending among our region’s purveyors of summertime Shakespeare. The latest to jump on the repertoire-expansion bandwagon is the Bird-on-a-Cliff Theatre Company, whose offering for this 24th season of the Woodstock Shakespeare Festival is a true outlier: Pericles, Prince of Tyre. It will be presented at the outdoor stage on the Comeau Property every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from July 26 through September 1, with showtime at a picnic-friendly 5:30 p.m. (bring a lawn chair or a blanket).

A sprawling odyssey that spans several decades and visits half a dozen cities and islands in Classical-era Asia Minor, Pericles is an ambitious story to tell. It’s got a riddle that’s fatal either to solve or to fail at solving; a storm at sea quelled by a not-quite-dead princess being tossed overboard in a coffin; another princess who manages to preserve her virtue though kidnapped by pirates and sold to a brothel; a city rescued from famine; a tournament won by a stranger knight in sea-rusted armor; royal incest; royal treachery; wise advice in a dream from the goddess Diana; and a recognition scene that T. S. Eliot regarded as Shakespeare’s best.

Most scholars agree that at least the first two acts, possibly more — the part covering the youthful wanderings of the titular prince with a price on his head — weren’t even written by Shakespeare. Thought to have been first staged in 1607 or 1608, the play does not appear in the First Folio. It’s only when the focus homes in on how Pericles loses his daughter Marina and finds her again that the master’s hand becomes apparent. The likeliest candidate for the Bard’s collaborator is George Wilkins, a playwright who shortly thereafter published a “novelization” of the play using much of the same dialogue, titled The Painful Adventures of Pericles.

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Christopher Martin, founding artistic director of CSC Repertory in New York City and composer of the rock opera Quasimodo, directs a cast of familiar faces and new recruits, starring Justin Waldo and Yasemin Eti. Admission is free, though attendees will be encouraged to make a voluntary $10 donation to keep this delightful community amenity going strong. The Woodstock Shakespeare Festival Stage is located at 45 Comeau Drive in Woodstock. For more info, visit https://birdonacliff.org.

Woodstock Shakespeare Festival’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Friday-Sunday, July 26-Sept. 1, 5:30 p.m.
Free/$10 donation
Woodstock Shakespeare Festival Stage
45 Comeau Dr., Woodstock
https://birdonacliff.org

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