44-Year-Old Shakespeare Company to Kick Off 450th Birthday Bash With a Bang

By K.J. McElrath

MAY 9, 2014 – In a city famous for its whole-hearted and enthusiastic embrace of the Bard of Avon, where you can see a production of at least one Shakespeare play nearly every weekend, it is no surprise that the theatrical community has come together for a project in which every play, sonnet and narrative poem attributed to William Shakespeare will be publicly performed in Portland within a two-year period. The beginning of the Complete Works Project coincides with the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, and will conclude on the 400th anniversary of his death. Portland’s oldest continuously operating Shakespeare company, Portland Actors Ensemble, will be helping to kick things off this summer with innovative outdoor productions of two of his most beloved works, including the only production of Antony and Cleopatra scheduled during the two-year project.

Opening on June 19th at Laurelhurst Park will be PAE’s first-ever production of the romantic historical tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra. This production promises to be unique and epic, as director Elizabeth Huffman presents this timeless and complex love story in a startling new version that will illuminate the clash between modern and ancient cultures as well as the Machiavellian politics in ways that are more relevant to modern audiences than ever before.

Ms. Huffman, former artistic director of The Classic Greek Theatre of Oregon and a Drammy Award recipient, is no stranger to multicultural relations and conflicts. Drawing on her own Arab roots and in-depth knowledge of Imperial Rome, she weaves together elements of three distinct time periods – the Hellenistic world of the ancient Mediterranean, the English Renaissance during which the play was written, and the geo-political and cultural landscape of the 21st Century. “[This production] explores themes and questions embedded in the play,” Ms. Huffman says. “What happens when two powerful rulers from vastly different cultures, ideologies and political agendas dare to fall in love? Is it romantic destiny or political suicide? Have we changed the way we deal with that question today?”

Antony and Cleopatra, PAE’s tenth “Twilight Tragedie,” will feature live Arabic and contemporary music, additional text from Kahil Gibran and John Dryden and a stellar international cast, including Matthew DiBiasio and Andrea White in the title roles. It runs Thursday through Saturday evenings from June 19 until July 26.

Portland Actors Ensemble’s 45th annual Shakespeare-in-the-Parks touring production will be the popular A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Douglas Lay, who returns for a second season after last year’s successful Cymbeline. An award-winning, classically-trained actor, director and educator, Mr. Lay is a member of AEA/SAG/AFTRA who has appeared in productions on Broadway, London’s West End, and Paris. He has played more than thirty Shakespearean roles over the course of his distinguished career, and brings his own special insights as a veteran actor as well as an educator to this summer’s production.

“[This] production reflects Portland’s diverse communities and society’s current infatuation with royalty and celebrity,” says Mr. Lay. This summer’s production promises to be boisterous and hilarious, juxtaposing grandeur and intimacy, comedy and tragedy, and wisdom and absurdity – all while breathing with the miraculous charms and powerful illusions of love in all its forms. As part of PAE’s new educational outreach program, this production will also feature an ever-changing cast of fairies drawn from elementary and middle school students from across the Portland metro region.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs July 12 through Labor Day at parks around the area. Some performances will be ASL interpreted or audio-described. Visit for specific dates and times of both productions.

All-in-all, this is a season not to be missed – for you may not look upon its like again.

ABOUT PORTLAND ACTORS ENSEMBLE: Founded in 1970, PAE is Portland’s oldest continuously operating Shakespeare company, and one of the oldest theatre companies in the area. In the past decade alone, over 50,000 audience members have enjoyed PAE performances. For the past 45 years, this group of professional actors has presented plays in parks throughout the metro region free of charge thanks to the generosity of members, corporate and individual sponsors, and audience members. Visit the newly updated website at for more information.

Kill date: September 2, 2014

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Portland Actors Ensemble 2014 Shakespeare-in-the-Parks Schedule

Antony & Cleopatra                                                      A Midsummer Night’s Dream

June 19 Laurelhurst Park          7 pm                 July 12†   Concordia University      7 pm
June 20  Laurelhurst Park         7 pm                July 19    Maryhill Museum              3 pm
June 21  Laurelhurst Park         7 pm                July 26    Laurelhurst Park                3 pm
June 26  Laurelhurst Park         7 pm                July 27    Laurelhurst Park                6:30 pm
June 27  Laurelhurst Park         7 pm                August 2   Marylhurst University     6 pm
June 28  Laurelhurst Park         7 pm                August 3   Columbia Pk. Troutdale  6 pm
July 3   Laurelhurst Park            7 pm                August 9   Fernhill Park                     3 pm
July 5   Laurelhurst Park            7 pm                August 10  Fernhill Park                    3 pm
July 6   Meinig Park (Sandy)     6 pm                August 16  Gabriel Park                     3 pm
July 11  Laurelhurst Park            7 pm                August 17  Gabriel Park                     3 pm
July 12  Marylhurst University  6 pm                August 23  Washington Park           3 pm
July 17  Woodstock Park             7 pm                August 24* Washington Park           3 pm
July 18  Woodstock Park             7 pm                August 30   Reed College                  3 pm
July 19  Woodstock Park             7 pm                August 31   Reed College                   3 pm
July 24  Woodstock Park            7 pm                September 1 Reed College                 3 pm
July 25  Woodstock Park            7 pm
July 26* Woodstock Park           7 pm

† Audio-description for the blind  *American Sign Language interpreted