Check It Out: Shall I consume thee on a summer's day?

Summer and Shakespeare just seem to go together. Maybe because it takes a little leisure time to delve in, or perhaps it's because the tradition of outdoor theater seems particularly apt for enjoying a Shakespeare play. Whatever the reason, there are summertime Shakespeare festivals across the country, from New York City to the West Coast and everywhere in between, including right here in Newport Beach. So grab a couple of beach chairs, pack a picnic dinner and head to Bonita Canyon Sports Park this weekend for two Shakespeare by the Sea productions sponsored by the Newport Beach Arts Commission. The dramatic history "King John" will be performed Saturday, and Shakespeare's comedy "All's Well That Ends Well" will be presented Sunday evening. Both shows will begin promptly at 7 p.m.

Not often staged, "King John" dramatizes the historic reign of John, King of England, the weak son of Henry II and father of Henry III. The play, touted as a "Game of Thrones," is centered around a power struggle between Constance, the wife of John's dead brother, Richard the Lionheart, on behalf of her son Arthur and King John and his domineering mother Queen Elinor.

If you can't attend the live production of "King John," you might want to pick up the sound recording at the library. It's a fully dramatized version of the play on two CDs, featuring a full cast, with music and a brief summary of each scene.

In fact the Newport Beach Public Library carries dozens of audio books that will help renew or inspire an appreciation for Shakespeare. If seeing "King John" ignites an interest in history, check out "King Lear," "Julius Caesar," "Henry V" or "Richard III," all available in fully dramatized sound recordings.

The library also carries audio lectures on Shakespeare if you are looking to learn more about a particular play, a genre of his work, or even the man himself. Explore "William Shakespeare: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies" by the Great Courses for a wonderful overview of his work. "Shakespeare: The Word and the Action," also by the Great Courses, explores a number of plays such as "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Love's Labour's Lost," "Much Ado About Nothing" and several others — including his sonnets. If you are looking for more biographical information about Shakespeare, try Peter Ackroyd's "Shakespeare: The Biography."

Make it a summer of Shakespeare. For more information on Shakespeare by the Sea performances in Newport Beach, visit

CHECK IT OUT is written by the staff of the Newport Beach Public Library. All titles may be reserved from home or office computers by accessing the catalog at For more information on the Central Library or any of the branches, please contact the Newport Beach Public Library at (949) 717-3800, option 2.

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