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The art scene in Atlanta is typically defined by venues like the High Museum of Art or the Fox Theater, but quirky spots like The New American Shakespeare Tavern are what gives Atlanta its flare.
It is impossible to miss the tavern as you drive down Peachtree Street, due to its elaborate, themed façade. The New American Shakespeare Tavern sticks out significantly from the modern shops and restaurants surrounding it.
Visitors describe the venue located at 499 Peachtree Street, as a “magical place where literature lovers can watch their favorite works unfold right before their eyes, as they dine on delicious cuisine.” At the tavern, you don’t have to turn the pages of classic plays like “Hamlet” or “Romeo and Juliet,” instead you feel as if you’re in the actual story itself.
The authentic Elizabethan Playhouse, originally known as the Shakespeare Tavern, is home to the Atlanta Shakespeare Company (ASC). ASC began on May 16, 1984 when the company performed its first production, “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare, at “Manuel’s Tavern” in Atlanta. For six years, the company continued to perform many other works of Shakespeare in the back room of “Manuel’s Tavern,” attracting national attention due to publicity on CNN and CBS as well as in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Finally, in 1990 ASC opened a place that they could call their own and the New American Shakespeare Tavern was born. Since the venue’s inception, ASC has produced more than 73 plays and more than 1,600 performances. On top of Shakespeare’s works they have presented historic literature from playwrights such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Aristophanes, G.B Shaw, Moliere, Christopher Marlowe, Jean Anouilh, Ryunosuke Akutagwa, Albert Camus, Jean Genet, Jean Racine, Tennessee Williams, Bertolt Brecht, Mrs. Aphra Behn, Jean Cocteau and Thornton Wilder.
In 1995, the company was selected to perform on the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe (a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre where Shakespeare’s company performed) in London, England, making them the first American company to do so. In 1999, the venue underwent a $1.6 million renovation and expansion. The tavern was reopened to the world on October 15, 1999, under the revamped title, “The New American Shakespeare Tavern.” Some of the renovations include a globe-inspired balcony and more Elizabethan detailing. The expansion not only made room for more guests but also created a more interactive environment in the tavern.
Something that you definitely don’t want to miss is the famed hot apple crisp served with ice cream only during intermission. Every tavern visitor talks about this tasty treat, whether they’re raving about the dessert or regretting not buying one of their own.
The actors in each production are known to acknowledge and interact with the audience in a true Elizabethan manner, making the experience all the more enjoyable. This trait is seen frequently in the tavern’s most recent production, which has caused quite the buzz in the Atlanta community. ACS just finished its second weekend delivering a comedic production entitled, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” Upon the opening of the show, the actors announce that they will deliver all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays within a two-hour time limit. The time limit allows for a modern interpretation of the plays, which combines pop culture references, props, improvised jokes, a hip hop routine, a football game and purposefully ridiculous costumes. The show only features three actors, Daniel Parvis, Nicholas Faircloth, and Matt Felten. The limited cast provides even more room for entertainment as the actors attempt to change costumes, characters and scenes at the speed of light. This fun, unique production will continue through July 31st so there is plenty of time to catch it.
The New American Shakespeare Tavern is a great weekend activity that Atlanta visitors should mark as a must see attraction and Georgia natives should make plans to attend. The tavern’s combination of literature, atmosphere and originality is hard to beat, and it certainly is an essential ingredient to the Atlanta art scene.
James Baldwin once wrote, “Anyone who has ever had to live in poverty knows just how expensive it is to be poor. All things considered, the same is submerged within fashion, art and one’s ability to not only survive but live! Posture, vigor, ability and one’s willingness to piece together such formalities of greatness, is exemplified in not only the fabrics of the world, but should be, in my opinion, altered and tailored to assist one in his or her journey.”