45 Transgressive Spins on Shakespeare, Past and Present

After seeing The Public’s most recent production of King Lear this summer, Ira Glass came to the incendiary conclusion that “Shakespeare sucks.” The comment riled many, for reasons that are largely obvious to anyone who understands the Bard’s place in the literary canon, but also because of the threat that such an influential public figure’s disapproval poses to an art form that’s already been noted to be “dying” at the slow pace of a stabbed Shakespearean character. Now, some would counter that theater’s adherence to the past is what’s dooming it in the first place, and that our reverence toward Shakespeare in particular is the core of the problem. But Shakespeare has actually proven to be one of the most vital vessels for change in theater: among directors who aren’t too reverent, who see it as a basis rather than a bible, his old texts have contributed to a great deal of innovation and theatrical radicalism. Here are 45 productions that — through radical politics, outlandish visuals, and enormous Kevin Spacey heads, might change the way you (and Ira Glass) — view Shakespeare.