HARK! IN OLDEN TIMES, THE LEADER OF ONE OF the world's most powerful nations had a son, a mediocre student who partied far too heartily. As the years passed, the son grew up to assume his father's crown and, as head of state, became mired in a contested war.

In this tale, written long ago, the son's name is Henry V, not George W. But with plot lines like this, is it any wonder that Washington, D.C., has had a long-standing love affair with Shakespeare?

SHAKESPEARE IN WASHINGTON / / For the schedule of events, visit ShakespeareinWashington.org

Highlights of D.C.'s Shakespeare festival

This weekend marks the beginning of Shakespeare in Washington, a six-month festival featuring 500 performances by more than 60 arts organizations from Maryland to Russia.

"I can't think of any other artist who has had so much effect beyond his or her own work into the other art forms," says Michael M. Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the man who conceived the festival.

Events span theater, dance, musical performances and art exhibits. Even the theatrical offerings vary widely. Among the more traditional will be Richard III (Jan. 16-March 18) and Hamlet (June 5-July 29) at the Shakespeare Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company's Coriolanus (April 13-May 6) at the Kennedy Center. But there are also productions of The Sonnets and Hamlet (June 11-14) by New York's Tiny Ninja Theater using miniature plastic figures; and wordless adaptations of Macbeth (Jan. 11-Feb. 25) and Hamlet (May 31-June 17) by Virginia's Synetic Theater.

For a complete schedule of events, go to ShakespeareinWashing ton.org. Here are some highlights in all the arts. Theater

Coriolanus. The Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Shakespeare's last tragedy, about an arrogant military man turned arrogant political leader. April 13-May 6, Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. N.W.

Titus Andronicus. Australian Gale Edwards directs the Shakespeare Theatre's first-time production of Shakespeare's rarely staged early revenge tragedy. April 3-May 20, Shakespeare Theatre, 450 Seventh St. N.W.

King Lear. Baltimore native Andre de Shields plays the ill-fated monarch in this production by the Classical Theatre of Harlem. Thursday-Feb. 18, Folger Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St., S.E.

Shylock. Theodore Bikel portrays the misused moneylender in a reading of Arnold Wesker's re-envisioned Merchant of Venice. May 13-15, Theater J, Washington DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St., N.W.

The Tempest/La Tempete. Performed in French with English surtitles, this high-tech Tempest features a combined cast of real and virtual actors and conjures Prospero's spells with state-of-the-art multimedia. March 22-24, Kennedy Center.



Othello. The American Ballet Theatre combines classical dance and modern movement in this interpretation of Shakespeare's tale of love, betrayal and jealousy. Thursday-Jan. 14, Kennedy Center.

Romeo and Juliet. The internationally renowned Kirov Ballet performs Shakespeare's classic tragedy about star-crossed lovers to Sergei Prokofiev's monumental score. Jan. 16-21, Kennedy Center.

A Midsummer Night's Dream. The New York City Ballet performs this collaboration among three geniuses - playwright William Shakespeare, composer Felix Mendelssohn and choreographer George Balanchine. Feb. 28-March 4, Kennedy Center.

Virtually Richard3. Australia's Expressions Dance Company blends theater, dance and video in a multimedia portrayal of one of Shakespeare's most attractive and compelling villains. March 23-24, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. N.E.

The Farthest Earth From Thee: A Suite of Sonnets. The Liz Lerman Dance Company presents a new work inspired by Shakespeare's 154 sonnets. The production will feature dancers with and without disabilities. June 2-3, Greenberg Theatre, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.



Shakespeare on Canvas at the Phillips Collection. Works on Shakespearean themes by American artist Albert Pinkham Ryder and French painter Adolphe Monticelli. Through Feb. 28. Gallery talk Feb. 1 explores these works through the writings of museum founder Duncan Phillips. 1600 21st St. N.W.

Shakespeare's Sources at the National Gallery of Art. Outstanding examples of 16th- and 17th-century books that Shakespeare used as source material for his plays. Illustrated editions include Ovid's Metamorphoses, Livy's Roman History and Plutarch's Lives. Through April 17. East Building Library Atrium, Third Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest



Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor, Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, and Elgar's Falstaff, conducted by Carlos Kalmar, Jan. 26, Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda.

Kirov Opera and Orchestra: Verdi's Falstaff (based on The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV). Conducted by Valery Gergiev. Jan. 31-Feb. 3. Kennedy Center.

Vocal Arts Society: Shakespeare-inspired music sung by Susan Bickley and German baritone Stephan Loges. Feb. 8, Kennedy Center.

National Symphony Orchestra: Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream, conducted by Ivan Fischer, Feb. 8-10. Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, April 5-7. Dvorak's Othello Overture, Smetana's Richard III, conducted by Jiri Belohlavek, April 19-21. Kennedy Center.

Folger Consort: Music from Shakespeare's time and plays, March 9111. Purcell's The Fairy Queen (based on A Midsummer Night's Dream), featuring Francois Loup, Lynn Redgrave and Derek Jacobi, April 13-15, Folger Theatre.

Washington Concert Opera: Rossini's Otello (based, like Verdi's opera of that name, on Othello). Featuring tenor Bruce Ford and soprano Elizabeth Futral. April 29, George Washington University, Lisner Auditorium, 21st and H streets Northwest.

Washington National Opera: Verdi's Macbeth. Starring Lado Ataneli and Paoletta Marrocu. May 12-June 2, Kennedy Center.


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