All the world is a stage, but over the next two weeks, Santa Barbara will have all the players in Lit Moon World Shakespeare Festival present nine of the famous playwright’s best works.

The festival, which runs until Oct. 22, begins today at Westmont College’s Porter Theatre with a sold-out performance of “Hamlet”, and will continue in a number of locations including UCSB’s Hatlen Theater. John Blondell, the director of the festival, said he has hosted a Shakespeare festival before, but this is the first time companies have come from other countries to participate.

“I’ve done smaller festivals for about the last eight years, but this is the first year [to expand the festival],” Blondell said.

Lit Moon, a collective of theatre artists founded in Santa Barbara in 1991 that employs artists throughout the world, is hosting the festival. International theater companies participating in this year’s festival come from the Czech Republic, Poland, Canada and Bulgaria.

Blondell said he hopes to bring an international element to Santa Barbara’s already thriving theater scene.

“My goal is to make this a bi-annual event in Santa Barbara and to make a legitimate mid-size festival that is certainly nationally known, or internationally known,” Blondell said. “It’s just the added dimension of the international component that I want to bring to Santa Barbara.”

Meghan Henry, the public events and marketing associate at UCSB Arts & Lectures, said Blondell received a Ph.D. and master’s degree from UCSB, and is now the head of the drama department at Westmont College in Montecito. Henry said it is exciting that a UCSB alumnus is organizing such a large event.

Holly Chadwin, the executive assistant and youth and community program coordinator at the Lobero Theatre, said two of the festival plays will be shown at the downtown theater. She said a Polish company will perform “Othello,” and the Bulgarian National Theater will perform “Romeo and Juliet,” both in their respective languages.

Chadwin said super-titles will be projected above the stage for one of the plays, and a translation will be provided at the other performance.

“There are seven groups representing five countries, a couple different versions of the plays, some in English, some in foreign languages,” Chadwin said. “It’s very cool; it’s a very extensive festival. There is even an evening of songs inspired by Shakespeare.”

Besides performances, Blondell said the festival will include a number of lectures, keynote speakers and discussions. For more information, visit