Denny & Tom's Shakespeare Quest 1992-2006

In June of 1992, good friends Dennis Hornish and Tom Chatt saw their first Shakespeare play together, a riveting production of Richard II at the Mark Taper Forum, featuring Kelsey Grammer in the title role. Later that year, they saw the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production of Richard III starring Sir Ian McKellen. As they walked out of UCLA's Royce Hall marveling at the performance they had just seen, Denny suggested to Tom that they should make it a goal to see all of Shakespeare's plays.

We're often asked, so how many Shakespeare plays are there? It turns out the answer is not simple. There were no authorized publications of the Bard's plays during his lifetime, and it is not clear to what extent he collaborated with other writers on some of his plays. There are 36 plays that were included in the First Folio (even though some of them probably involved collaboration), and 3 more plays that many scholars would include in the canon. Just to be sure, we have seen all 39 of them. (And for extra good measure, we have both seen the Reduced Shakespeare Company's “Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”, and Denny even got pulled up on stage to play Ophelia's id.)

Celebrating a Quest Completed

This quest, steadily pursued over 15 years, is about to be completed. In September, Denny and Tom will travel to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's home town, to see the final play in their quest, Troilus and Cressida. This producion is being produced by the Edinburgh International Festival, directed by Peter Stein, in association with the RSC's Complete Works Festival. If you'd like to join us for the show, purchase tickets here. We also plan to see The Tempest with Patrick Stewart while we are there.

Upon completion of our quest, on Saturday night, September 9, we will plan some sort of celebration, probably in a local Stratford pub. Watch this space for details.

The Road to Completion

Our quest has included travels to New York and to Ashland, Oregon, and we have both made the pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon (though this summer will be our first time in Stratford together). We have seen nearly 50 productions (so obviously we've repeated a few), including 9 Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) productions. We are grateful for the rich theatre resources here in Los Angeles, starting with the Knightsbridge Theatre (where we've seen 11 productions), the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company (an extraordinary troop of all women both onstage and backstage), the Shakespeare Festival / LA (outdoor summer productions), the Pasadena Shakespeare Company, A Noise Within in Glendale, UCLA Live, the Center Theatre Group (running LA's major downtown theatres, the Ahmanson and the Mark Taper Forum), and many others that make our home town so rich. Welcome visitors to LA have included not only the RSC, but the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Company (an extraordinary company devoted to original practices, including all-male casts, lead by Mark Rylance) and Sir Peter Hall (founder of the RSC). (We've seen all of Kenneth Branagh's films, but missed our chance to see him on stage here.) Away from home, we've appreciated the remarkable Old Globe in San Diego, the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York.

A full chronology is given below. Plays shown in bold are quest milestones. Plays shown in italics were plays we had already seen, or plays that one of us saw without the other.

1991

June. Julius Caesar (Mark Taper Forum, American president theme) Tom saw this before the quest officially began.

1992

June. Richard II (Mark Taper Forum, featuring Kelsey Grammer in the title role). Denny and Tom's first play together.
Sept. Richard III (RSC at UCLA Royce Hall, featuring Sir Ian McKellen). The quest is articulated.

1993

July. Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare Festival / LA at Palos Verdes)

1994

Apr. Twelfth Night (Ford Theatre, with a contemporary gays-in-the-military theme)
June. Othello (LA Women's Shakespeare Co)
July. A Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare Festival / LA at Palos Verdes)
Nov. Henry VI, Part 3 (RSC at Cerritos)

1995

Feb. The Taming of the Shrew (Knightsbridge at Pasadena)
May. Hamlet (LA Women's Shakespeare Co)
June. Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 (Odyssey Theatre)
July. The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare Festival / LA at Palos Verdes)
Aug. A Midsummer Night's Dream (La Jolla Playhouse, with a New Orleans theme)
Sept. Tom sees Reduced Shakespeare Co's “Complete Works of W.S. (Abridged)” in London
Oct. Macbeth (Hollywood Methodist, environmental production)

1996

Mar. Richard III. (LA Women's Shakespeare Co)
June. On a business trip to Finland, Tom saw Romeo & Julia performed on/in Suomenlinna Castle, Helsinki, in Finnish.
July. The Tempest. (Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga)
Aug. Othello. (Shakespeare Festival / LA at Palos Verdes)
Aug. Denny sees Reduced Shakespeare Co's “Complete Works of W.S. (Abridged)” in San Diego, and is called on stage to play the part of Ophelia's id.
Dec. Pericles, Prince of Tyre. (Old Globe, San Diego)

1997

Feb. As You Like It and Two Gentlemen of Verona (Knightsbridge, Pasadena). Two in one day!
Apr. A Winter's Tale (A Noise Within)
June. Measure for Measure (LA Women's Shakespeare Co)
July. Love's Labour's Lost (Pasadena Shakespeare Co)
Sept. Henry V (Knightsbridge, Pasadena)
Oct. The Merry Wives of Windsor (Knightsbridge, Pasadena)
Nov. Julius Caesar (El Camino College). (This is the only play that Tom and Denny did not see together. Tom had seen a 1991 production of it at the Mark Taper, but we counted it off our quest when Denny saw it here.)

1998

Feb. Romeo and Juliet (Knightsbridge, Pasadena)
May. Henry VIII and Hamlet (RSC at BAM). Denny and Tom travel to New York just for this.
Oct. The Merchant of Venice (Knightsbridge, Pasadena)
Nov. Much Ado About Nothing (A Noise Within)

1999

May. Much Ado About Nothing (LA Women's Shakespeare Co). Tom only.
July. Measure for Measure and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Sir Peter Hall at the Ahmanson, with Richard Thomas and Kelly McGillis)
Aug. Cymbeline (Old Globe, San Diego)
Oct. Timon of Athens (RSC at Stratford). Denny while on vacation in England.
Oct. Antony and Cleopatra (Shakespeare's Globe, London). Denny while on vacation in England.

2000

Feb. King Lear (Pasadena Shakespeare Co)
Mar. A Midsummer Night's Dream (El Camino College). Tom sees this production, with his friend Thommy playing Demetrius.
May. Titus Andronicus (Knightsbridge, Pasadena)
Sept. Coriolanus (RSC at BAM). Tom on a trip to New York.
Oct. Love's Labour's Lost (Old Globe, San Diego)

2001

Feb. Romeo and Juliet (Sir Peter Hall at Ahmanson)

2002

Feb. King John (Knightsbridge, Pasadena)
Apr. Coriolanus (Knightsbridge, Pasadena)

2003

Mar. Shakespeare Revue (Pepperdine), a musical comedy revue that had originated with RSC in Stratford.
Apr. Edward III (Knightsbridge, Pasadena)
Oct. Twelfth Night (Shakespeare's Globe / Mark Rylance at UCLA)

2004

July. Henry VI, part 1; Henry VI parts 2 and 3 (OSF, Ashland). Denny and Tom make a road trip to Oregon for this.
July. Antony and Cleopatra and Two Noble Kinsmen (Old Globe, San Diego).
Oct. Tom takes part in the Company's Marathon at the MET Theatre, an 85-hour non-stop 24/7 reading of all of Shakespeare's plays back to back, where he reads in Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida.
Nov. All's Well That Ends Well (ARK Theatre, Los Angeles)

2005

Feb. As You Like It (Sir Peter Hall at Ahmanson)
Oct. Richard II (Old Vic, London, with Kevin Spacey). Denny while on vacation in England.
Nov. Measure for Measure (Shakespeare's Globe / Mark Rylance at UCLA)

2006

Apr. Timon of Athens (Cal State Fullerton)
Sept. Troilus and Cressida (Edinburgh International Festival / RSC at Stratford-upon-Avon). The quest is complete!!!
Sept. The Tempest (RSC at Stratford, with Patrick Stewart)



Quest Statistics and Facts

It's taken 15 years to complete our quest, and by the end of September 2006, we will have seen together 52 performances, an average rate of 3.5 per year. Our biggest year was 1997 when we saw 8 plays (7 of them new ones). The number of plays per year we saw together (including repeats), and our cumulative progress on the quest, is shown in the chart below:




Plays By Producer

Together

Between us

Knightsbridge Theatre (Pasadena)

11

11

Royal Shakespeare Company

6

9

Old Globe (San Diego)

5

5

LA Women's Shakespeare Company

4

5

Shakespeare Festival / LA

4

4

Sir Peter Hall

4

4

Shakespeare's Globe

2

3

Mark Taper Forum

1

3

Pasadena Shakespeare Company

2

2

A Noise Within

2

2

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

2

2

El Camino College

2

2

various others (once each)

7

9



Plays we have seen more than once: As You Like It, Hamlet, Love's Labour's Lost, Measure For Measure, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona. We have seen Measure for Measure three times.

Famous people we've seen on stage: Kelsey Grammer, Sir Ian McKellen, Mark Rylance, Ralph Fiennes, Kevin Spacey, Richard Thomas, Kelly McGillis, Rebecca Hall, Julian Glover, Susannah York, Roger Rees (directing), David Dukes, Fran Bennett, Patrick Stewart (anticipating September).