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NEA takes Shakespeare on tour. (Legit).

WASHINGTON Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, has a message for America: The Bard is back.

Starting in September, at least six professional theater companies will take Shakespeare to more than 100 small and mid-sized communities in all 50 states. Shakespeare in American Communities "is intended to make professional theater a vital part of the cultural environment of smaller communities," Gioia told a House subcommittee hearing. He called it "the largest theatrical tour of Shakespeare in American history."

The new NEA topper, a poet who took over the embattled post last month, unveiled the plans March 13, during his first congressional appearance. The initiative will be launch-ed in partnership with Minn-e-apolis-based regional org Arts Midwest. It "will not only celebrate the works of our language's greatest playwright, but also revive a great American theatrical tradition dating back to the early days of the republic," he said.

Bringing the Bard to local theaters and schools, as well as military bases and Native American communities, demonstrates the NEA's commitment to artistic excellence, public outreach and arts education, Gioia told the subcommittee.

The NEA declined to offer specifics about the initiative, including the project's budget. A rep said the NEA will seek private funding sources to supplement NEA coin.

Variety has learned a major component of the initiative will be a 20-community tour of "Othello" by Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater from January to May 2004.

Other participants are Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Arkansas Repertory Theater, both doing "Romeo & Juliet," and New York's Acting Co. ("Richard III") and Aquila Theater ("Othello"). Artists Repertory Theater of Portland, Ore., reportedly will perform "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with actors from the National Theater of Vietnam.

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Author:Harris, Paul
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 7, 2003
Words:281
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