Canon complete: Englishman flies here to see OSF show

In his 37th year, Dan Wilson decided to see all 37 of Shakespeare's plays

By John Darling
For the Tidings

Posted Oct. 22, 2015 at 5:49 PM
Updated Oct 22, 2015 at 5:50 PM

Dan Wilson of Brighton, England, wanted his then-upcoming 37th year to be special, so, a year ago he set out to see all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in a year, a feat he almost completed in Great Britain, with a few in Belgium and Italy.
Just one remained: “Pericles.” Turns out the only place in the world he could find it was at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so he flew here to complete “my Shakespeare quest” Wednesday, much to the delight of the cast, which celebrated him with a group pic and merriment after the play.
“The play was brilliant and it fell on my 38th birthday,” said Wilson, a freelance business writer. “A year ago, I tried to find something of which there were 37 and it was Shakespeare’s plays. I had no idea about this festival in Oregon until I realized it was the only production of Pericles in the world and I had to see it. The cast was absolutely charming and really excited about it.”
Wilson even got a TV interview on the OSF Bricks, a pic on OSF’s Facebook and remarked that it’s “really peculiar” to feel like a minor celebrity.
Eighty-year-old OSF is just finishing its fifth trip around the entire Shakespeare canon, and Festival Media & Communications Manager Amy Richard noted that many had seen the whole cycle, but not crammed in one year — and no one she recalls has traveled this far for this purpose.
It’s easy to catch the first-tier plays — think “Macbeth,” “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet” — and it takes some hunting to find the second-tier works, but the third tier are almost never performed, he says. He ventured to Edinburgh to catch “All’s Well That End’s Well” and to Rome for “Comedy of Errors,” in English.
In Stratford, he saw the Bard’s home and grave, then took in “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and “Much Ado About Nothing.” In Leicester, Wilson visited the grave of Richard III — reburied this year in Leicester Cathedral after being found entombed under a nearby parking lot — then took in the Bard’s play named after him.
“In Brussels,” he said, “I had to spend three long nights watching all three parts of ‘Henry VI’ and I was so happy to get out and sample some great Belgian beer.”
Wilson hit a speed bump in his quest: no one was doing “Henry VIII,” so he decided to produce the play himself last Sunday evening, using actors, reading script-in-hand, with him reading the prologue and epilogue. It took place at the Grand Central Pub in Brighton and brought in a good crowd of locals who had wanted to see all the Bard’s plays, but had never had the chance to see that one.
One eye-opener, said Wilson in a story in his hometown Brighton & Hove News (, was the extent to which “really clever people have taken Shakespeare in hand and made it very contemporary, modern and relevant.”
His favorite example of that trend was “The Merchant of Venice,” which was set in Las Vegas and featured an Elvis in full regalia, singing appropriate songs, such as “Suspicious Minds,” staged at the Almeida Theatre in London.
“They really brought it to life,” he said, “and I’m sure, if he could watch it, the Bard and the King would get along really well. Shakespeare would be in favor of anything.”
His Shakespeare quest over, Wilson on Thursday treated himself to a 38th birthday present at OSF, “Guys and Dolls,” then will wing the 5,100 miles back to England.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at [email protected].

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