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One of the most famous speeches in Shakespeare's As You Like It begins "All the world's a stage," but the Bard could never have known how many stage worlds his words would inspire and populate.
This winter, Toronto gets to see half a dozen fascinating shows based on stories and characters he penned.
Leading the pack is World Stage, whose 11-production season includes a three-work mini-Shakespeare festival; tickets at 416-973-4000.
The season begins with Othello, C'est Qui (Othello, Who's That), a two-hander about the most famous black character in the Bard. But though people in the West know him, hardly anyone in Africa does. This reinterpretation of Othello and his wife, Desdemona, looks at the cultural clichés that surround the pair, using them as a jumping-off point to present a confrontation between two cultures.
The German/Ivory Coast production by Gintersdorfer/Klassen runs February 6 to 9 at the Enwave Theatre.
It's followed by a pair of shows that draw on the intense parent-child relationship in King Lear. Canadian director Philip McKee presents Lear, a co-production with Harbourfront Centre, featuring Clare Coulter as a female ruler beset by problems with her children, what it means to rule a kingdom and a family and to pass on a familial legacy. March 5 to 10 at the Studio Theatre.
There's more father-daughter tension in the presentation by German feminist troupe She She Pop, which brings She She Pop & Their Fathers: Testament. A trio of company members and their actual fathers explore inheritance of various sorts and how things are passed on to the next generation. April 17 to 20 at the Enwave Theatre.
The 1966 piece that shot British playwright Tom Stoppard to success, Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, takes two minor characters from Hamlet and makes them the featured performers in their own take on the well-known tragedy.
Ted Dykstra and Jordan Pettle star in this Soulpepper production as R and G, with Kenneth Welsh as the Player who figures prominently in their lives. Hamlet, Ophelia and others are minor characters in this very funny existential tale. At the Young Centre from February 7 to March 2; 416-866-8666.
Another intriguing take on the Bard's plays is Joseph Jomo Pierre's Shakespeare's Nigga, a co-pro involving Obsidian Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille and 3D Atomic, in which Othello and another of the playwright's black characters, Aaron, confront their maker and master. Also part of the mix is Shakespeare's daughter, who turns the tale, in part, into a striking version of The Tempest. At Theatre Passe Muraille from February 2 to 23; 416-504-7529.
Finally, the National Ballet revives Alexei Ratmansky's choreography for Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet. It may not be as striking as the company's memorable John Cranko version, but it's still a hit with audiences. At the Four Seasons Centre from March 12 to 17; 416-345-9595.