Free Will

It's a shock when you reach adulthood and realize that you're not yet done with Shakespeare, that you didn't leave him padlocked in your bologna-sandwich-smelling high-school locker or folded in a dog-eared college lit text at the campus bookstore. He's out here in the grown-up world too.

He waits at the Cineplex in tights looking like Joseph Fiennes or dressed dapperly in Kenneth Branagh's musical version of Love's Labour's Lost. Four more movies are on reel for release later this year, including Romeo & Juliet with Nickelodeon's Kel Mitchell and O, the teenage-angst version of Othello, starring Julia Stiles, the queen of the Shakespeare/high-school exchange program.

But, as with many other attention-craving old men, Shakespeare's favorite place to hang out is the park. Across the nation, theater companies pull out the feathered hats and codpieces for another go at the Bard. Spectators come by the picnic table-full even though the only thing harder than reading Shakespeare is watching quick-mouthed actors recite Shakespeare as sweat rolls down your back and accumulates in a puddle in your underwear.

This year the Shakespeare Festival of Dallas increased its shorts-soaking opportunities from two to six by bringing in Shakespearean troupes from Canada, Mexico, and Texas to complement its one production and the Junior Players' annual play. Its season ends this week with the last three performances of A Winter's Tale by Kilgore's Texas Shakespeare Festival and Twelfth Night performed by the high-school student-actors of the Junior Players.

A Winter's Tale is a fable-like story of redemption in which a king imprisons his wife for adultery and abandons his newborn daughter on a deserted island only to find the family he tried to destroy after years of sorrow and regret. The Junior Players broke some of Will's casting guidelines for Twelfth Night, a farce about a girl dressed as a boy who finds herself caught between a duke and the lady he loves that's resolved when her lost twin brother arrives.

Betrayal, lost relatives, and love triangles. It's like prime-time soaps, only with perspiration and sword fights instead of cellular phones and convertible cars. Maybe Shakespeare isn't so scary after all.

Shannon Sutlief

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Shannon Sutlief