Shakespeare hall-of-famers

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Tonight, the Guthrie Theatre’s touring production of “Henry V” comes to Purdue University. Shortly after talking about it on the air today at Fox 59 (where I offer a weekly preview of upcoming arts events–see clip at, I saw that the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is putting together a list of 13 names for its new Hall of Fame at its Stratford-Upon-Avon visitors center.

Not just a list of great Shakespeareans, the Hall of Fame is dedicated to those who were inspired by him and/or championed his work.

Twelve have been picked, and there are 10 candidates for the 13th spot.

The twelve (including a surprising three Americans):

Ben Jonson–A contemporary of Shakespeare’s and early champion of his work.

David Garrick–18th-century actor.

Charles Dickens–The novelist led the movement to make Shakespeare’s birthplace a landmark.  

Ellen Terry–Acclaimed actress from the late 1800s.

Laurence Olivier–One of the most popular Shakespeareans of the 20th century and among the first to popularize the plays on film.

Judi Dench–Actress who made her professional stage debut in “Hamlet” and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare company.

Kenneth Branagh–Noted not only for his stage work but for making a series of films based on Shakespeare.

Patrick Stewart–Actor whose most recent Broadway stint was in “Macbeth.”

Leonardo DiCaprio–Actor who appeared in “Romeo + Juliet” on screen. Frankly, this choice is the one that baffles me the most.

Akira Kurosawa–Japanese filmmaker noted for, among many other things, his adaptations of Shakespeare.

Sam Wanamaker–American actor who is largely responsible for the recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Paul Robeson–The first 20th-century black actor to play Othello. His 1943-44 production is said to be the longest running Shakespeare play ever on Broadway.

For more on the Hall of Fame choices, click here.

Judging from the crowd’s at this summer’s production of “The Merchant of Venice” at White River State Park, it seems there are some of you out there who appreciate a little Bard. My question: What’s the best Shakespeare production–or performance–you’ve ever seen?

Have you caught any productions on past trips to London? Have a favorite Shakespeare film? Or have you seen something terrific on local stages?

My short list includes a Kevin Kline, outstanding in an otherwise not-very-successful “Hamlet,” a joyful, moving “Love’s Labour’s Lost” at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, Christopher Plummer’s heart-stopping performance as Iago in a Broadway “Othello,” the Goodman Theatre’s harrowing “King Lear,” and a charming “Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the now-defunct Philadelphia Drama Guild. I also love Kenneth Branagh’s film of “Henry V.”  

Your thoughts on the list and/or your experiences?

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