The idea sounded more like a dare than a serious proposal. in 2011, the AT&T Performing Arts Center asked Shakespeare Dallas if they had any ideas for how the two organizations could collaborate. Actor Cameron Cobb picked up an anthology of the Bard’s entire oeuvre and slammed it back down on the table.
“Why don’t we do this book?” Cobb asked.
“Oh, my God,” said Raphael Parry, Shakespeare Dallas’ executive and artistic director. “You have to be kidding.”
He wasn’t. And this month, after five years, Shakespeare Dallas will complete the herculean task of staging readings of every single word William Shakespeare ever wrote—38 plays, plus two epic poems and 154 sonnets—with readings of The Tempest and the sonnets at the Wyly Theatre. It is a feat that, to the best of Parry’s knowledge, has not been matched by any company in the world. The biggest challenge, he says, was finding 15 to 20 actors a month who were comfortable with Shakespearean verse and able to perform with little direction. There was also the challenge of staging plays that are hardly ever performed, which reaped its own rewards.
“It’s fascinating to see some of the surprises in some of those obscure works,” Parry says. “Henry VI, Part II has pirates, ghosts, demons, and crazy things.”
The enthusiastic reception to the project showed Parry that there is a deep appetite for these kinds of readings, and he’s already making plans for another series. But for now, the company will take a breather.
“There’s a bit of amazement that five years have flown by,” Parry says.