Travel: Get Thee To A Play

All the world may be a stage, but many of this year's best productions will be mounted in Stratford on Avon this spring. England's Royal Shakespeare Company is launching The "Complete Works" festival in the Bard's hometown. Starting April 23 (Will's birthday), the yearlong festival will feature all 37 of Shakespeare's plays and all his poems. The RSC's many theaters, as well as the surrounding streets, will be filled with all things Shakespeare, including a free outdoor film festival and the sonnets set to music by artists like Natalie Merchant. The RSC is staging 23 of the productions itself, while companies from such places as India, Japan and South Africa will contribute 30 more, including an American "Hamlet" featuring tiny ninja figures (Ophelia drowns in a glass of water). Our picks: "The Tempest," starring Patrick Stewart; Ian McKellen in "King Lear"; "The Baghdad Richard" featuring an Arabic cast, and a musical version of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" starring Judi Dench.

Buy tickets to the festival at rsc completeworks .co.uk . Prices range from $9 for standing room to $95, with discounts for students and families. Tip: RSC members get priority booking, so consider joining for about $62 (www.rsc.org.uk ).

Stratford on Avon is about 100 miles north of London, but don't try a day trip, since you'll still be in the theater when the last train leaves ("www.centraltrains.co.uk ). Check into the Shakespeare Hotel, which dates back to 1637 (from $240; macdonaldhotels .co.uk ) or really splurge at the Menzies Welcombe Hotel (www.menzies-hotels.co.uk ). But, as King Lear said, "Nothing comes from nothing," so start planning now.