SHAKE 38 Festival is Five Days of Family Fun for Even the Youngest Theater Lovers

For five days in St. Louis, the region’s cast of characters turn the city into a stage and its residents into their audience.

Through the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis SHAKE 38 event, local theater buffs pay homage to William Shakespeare with one-of-a-kind presentations of his entire canon. From a yoga studio on Cherokee where actors bring a twist to Taming of the Shrew to Whisk Bakeshop where drama is served up along with cupcakes, St. Louis’ gardens, museums and restaurants provide the settings to 38 remarkable performances.

And this year, SHAKE 38 is bigger than ever before with a variety of family-friendly events on tap to thrill even the youngest of theater fans.

Five days of remarkable performances

Launched in 2010, SHAKE 38 is the first festival of its kind in the nation to give amateur and professional performers alike a collaborative platform to bring their own spin to Shakespeare’s works. What started as a 38-hour nonstop marathon has transformed into a five-day event that stretches across the city and has gained recognition among Shakespeare enthusiasts across the country.

From April 19-23, 1,500 local and national performers will introduce new fans to the Bard and reintroduce him to many of us who haven’t spent time with him since our high school English classes. Whether it’s a classroom of high school students or a professional theater group like Theatre Nuevo and The Improv Shop, St. Louis is breathing new life into 16th century theater.

Remarked Rick Dildine, artistic and executive director of the Festival, “We want to remind people that Shakespeare is in the public domain and owned by everyone. There is such a vast talent pool in St. Louis that we wanted to give everyone the freedom to conceive Shakespeare’s work in their own way. The only rule is to make the play the way you see fit. With so many performers of all walks of life and different backgrounds, every performance is unique.”

Just as important, with its unique lineup of venues, SHAKE 38 invites residents to explore areas of St. Louis they may have never visited. “It’s really a scavenger hunt through the city to show just how amazing St. Louis is,” Dildene added.

For families, SHAKE 38 offers 12 kid-friendly performances, including:

  • Romeo & Juliet: The Speed VersionMore than 100 members of the Affton High School senior class will bring to life Shakespeare’s epic tale of heartbreak in just 30 seconds. Saint Louis Zoo, April 19, 12 p.m.
  • Twelfth NightOld North-After School presents the beloved comedy in the new Old North Shakespeare Garden, designed by youth from the community. 2800 N. 14th St., April 19, 5:30 p.m.
  • King Ausar Meets King Henry VSt. Louis’ Zumba king interlaces a night of dance and celebration with scenes from Henry V. Zuka Gallery, 2701 N. 14 St., April 20, 8 a.m.
  • The TempestMP3 transports the audience to Propsero’s magical island with a family-friendly, 1-hour stage reading. The Ruins at Tower Grove Park, April 23, 10 a.m.
  • Julius Caesar: High NoonSaint Louis University Theatre presents the Roman tragedy within the walls of an empty, public pool for a unique experience. Maplewood Family Aquatic Center, 7550 Lohmeyer, April 23, 12 p.m.
  • Henry IV: The Great British SHAKE-Off – The Undiscovered Company turns one of St. Louis’ top bakeries into an epic battlefield to determine who will take control when King Henry is gone. Whisk Bakeshop, 2201 Cherokee, April 21, 7 p.m.

In addition, for the first time, SHAKE 38 will host its first headlining event – Cry Havoc, written and performed Stephan Wolfert. Wolfert employs Shakespeare’s veterans to focus on the difficulties today’s soldiers face as they transition from the military world to the civilian one. Cry Havoc will be performed on April 23 at 2 p.m. at the St. Louis Public Library – Central Library, 1301 Olive Street.

With an incredible array of performances and locations, there’s something for every member of the family at SHAKE 38 and a way to connect with both Shakespeare and the city.

 “Shakespeare isn’t as intimidating as we think,” said Dildine. “We assume his works are too academic or intellectual, but in reality, they are representative of the simple emotions and feelings that make us human. Through his works, thousands in the city are about to get out and collaborate, creating something incredible for everyone.”

For more information on SHAKE 38 and a full performance lineup, visit

Photo by J. David Levy for Shake 38

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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