Shakespeare & Company's HENRY IV PARTS I & II to Run 8/2-31

Shakespeare & Company's HENRY IV PARTS I & II to Run 8/2-31

A sweeping spectacle of bawdy buffoonery and bloody rebellion, director Jonathan Epstein's razor sharp and condensed adaptation of Henry IV delivers both parts in one dynamic evening of theatre. Performances run in the Tina Packer Playhouse August 2 - August 31. Press Opening is Friday, August 7, at 7:00pm. To RSVP or for interview opportunities contact Communications & Press Director Elizabeth Aspenlieder: aspenlieder@shakespeare.org.

Shakespeare's take on honor, war, sex and violence has never been more acute than in this riotous comedy that inter-mingles the young-rascal-that-would-be-king, Prince Hal, with the psychological underpinnings of father/son relationships. Epstein (who also plays King Henry) sets Shakespeare's wildest history tale between a bustling 15th century Eastcheap and a more contemporary London, where both settings blend together as we follow this stirring history of succession to the throne. Meet the notorious Prince Hal, heir apparent, who rebels against his father, forsakes the court and engages in petty crime with that huge 'sweet creature of bombast,' the unruly knight Falstaff. When the Prince's nemesis, Hotspur, and the northern lords rebel, will Hal stay and continue carousing with his surrogate 'father' Falstaff or heed the call of duty from the ailing King Henry? An exhilarating and potent journey through time and history, Henry IV offers many of the most memorable characters and lines in Shakespeare's canon as it continues to captivate and mesmerize audiences over four centuries later.

"King Henrie the Fourth continuing to his Death and Coronation of Henry the Fifth, with The Humorous Conceits of Sir John Falstalffe, and Swaggering Pistoll with the life and death of Henry Sirnamed Hotspurre...those are the subtitles of Henry IV," says Epstein. "And very exciting they sound, too, but they're too long of course, so we just call it Henry IV and people ask me why we can't do something fun instead. Well it is fun- it's the best fun in Shakespeare and maybe in Theatre. Falstaff is the consummate invention of a supremely inventive mind. Hotspur and his lady are the hottest, boldest couple, burning up in the fast lane before there was a fast lane. Pistoll is the most outrageous swaggerer, and the coronation of Henry V is the climax of one of the most poignant coming-of age stories ever written. The material in Henry IV, in general is unfamiliar to this country- there isn't the resonance of say the Gettysburg Address but at the heart of it is the desire for us to connect to one another. The actors connect deeply to Shakespeare's text and keep finding ways to break open and experience the material, which is filled with love, compassion, affection, stirred physicality and yearning. The desire of these characters is to reach each other in this play, and when they don't the tragedy is revealed. The audience gets drawn into this and their imaginations are ignited and hopefully they will leap towards us and come along for the ride. This summer's adaptation is an attempt to capture all of the best of that, and more."

The cast consists of many long time Company members including Ariel Bock (Epstein's wife who plays Mistress Quickly), Henry Clarke (Hal), Kevin Coleman (Northumberland), Johnny Lee Davenport (Glendower), Jonathan Epstein (Henry IV), Malcolm Ingram (who steps into the role of Falstaff, which he played in the Company's 2006 The Merry Wives of Windsor), Robert Lohbauer (Justice), Alexander Sovronsky (Westmoreland, and also the music composer for the production), Michael F. Toomey (Peto, and who is also the fight choreographer for the production), and newcomers to the Mainstage Ben Epstein (Epstein and Bock's son who will play Francis), Tori Grace (Lady Mortimer), Kelly Kilgore (Lady Percy), Timothy Adam Venable (Hotspur). Several cast members cross over into A Midsummer Night's Dream including Johnny Lee Davenport, Jonathan Epstein, Malcolm Ingram, Robert Lohbauer, Alexander Sovronsky and Michael F. Toomey.

"It began three years ago," continues Epstein, "when I looked around the dressing room during our production of As You Like It, and saw the most marvelous people I know, and thought how much more they all have to offer than we ever get a chance to ask of them, for even the greatest Shakespearean roles are so much littler than we ourselves-actors and audience-can be if we're allowed. We adapted Part One then as a first step, and decided not to limit ourselves to one time or place, but to find such times and settings as made each event most vivid- sobriety in Court, a wreckage of Solo cups in scenes of sophomoric braggadocio in Falstaff's hideout, Rebel cellphones sending treasonous texts, and death by gunfire in the battle. This summer's compilation of both parts is the next step on the journey. "

Henry IV, marks the Company's third 'bare Bard' of the season-which includes Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet-and has only 13 actors playing over 20 plus roles. The emphasis is on Shakespeare's text which makes the language the focus of the production including the relationships between the actors, and the actors and the audience. The concentration of the cast has to be total-besides playing their principle parts they become the citizens of the Court, the low brow of the pub, the mob, and the armies. The Company created its signature 'bare Bard' performance model over three decades ago, which typically features 6-10 actors playing multiple roles in a pared-down, incisive and fast paced production with minimal sets and costume elements. The 'bare Bard' mirrors many of the travelling performing troupes during Shakespeare's time when they were forced to move away from the cities and perform in the country to avoid the plague.

"Our designers," adds Epstein, "many of whom I've worked with for decades including Arthur Oliver who is creating our magnificent costumes, and Matthew Adelson who has created an outstanding and inventive lighting design, and newcomer Travis George who brings us one of the most ambitious and versatile sets I've worked on-have all worked in sync with each other to seamlessly create two colliding worlds. The set is three dimensional and includes ropes for the actors to move about the stage, the costumes follow the lines of the actors so they can freely move about and climb, if need be, on the rails in the Playhouse, or come up through the traps in the stage as they cross into multiple factions. The music and sound design is created by composer, musician, and musical director Alexander Sovronsky, who also performs in the play-having Alex in the show is a tremendous advantage because his music comes from such a visceral place of experience and insight. Added to all this of course is Susan Dibble's movement and choreography which supports the course of the stories and brings the audience along with us as we end, as I believe all of Shakespeare's plays did, with a rousing dance."

Sovronsky also created the music and sound design for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sovronsky has a long list of Regional, Off-Broadway and Broadway composing credits. He has been collaborating on and creating musical interpretations and scores for S&Co. for many years. His work includes productions from As You Like It in 2012, The Beauty Queen of Leenane last season, to this year's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare's Will and Henry IV, Parts I & II.

Jonathan Epstein* twenty-second season as well as directing his adaptation of Henry IV, will perform in this season's A Midsummer Night's Dream. S&Co. credits include Gustave in Heroes; Morris Schwartz in Kaufman's Barbershop; Man in None But the Lonely Heart, King Lear (title role), Leontes (The Winter's Tale), Stephano (The Tempest), Touchstone (As You Like It), Dogberry (Much Ado About Nothing), Benedict (Much Ado About Nothing), Puck, Brutus (Julius Caesar), Jaques (As You Like It), Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) and dozens of others. Most recently he played the title roles in Titus Andronicus for Orlando Shakespeare Theater and The Jewish Jester for New Stages. This fall he will join the faculty of the Asolo/FSU Conservatory, teaching Shakespeare performance to the second-year MFA candidates, a position made possible by the Elayne P. Bernstein Fund. He is married to actress Ariel Bock.

DRAMA LEAGUE FELLOWSHIP The production is supported by assistant director Lavina Jadhwina, who is part of The Drama League Fellowship mentoring program- a partnership concerned with opportunities for directors of color in classical theatre developed three years ago by the New York Drama League under the direction of Roger Danforth. Shakespeare & Company has participated with the Drama League and its Directing Fellowship Program for the past several years. "We are the only theatre in America offering this kind of fellowship-we are proud to engage and support the growth of the artistic lives of these individuals, and we support the program and these social issues whole-heartedly," said Simotes. Shakespeare & Company offers two different fellowships this season: The Classical Directing Program and The Education and Teaching Director Program. The Education and Teaching Fellow will assist on Henry IV, attending all rehearsals during the 5-week rehearsal period and production meetings associated with the show. The Classical Directing Fellow assisted Simotes on Dream, and both will be involved in the Company's annual Fall Festival of Shakespeare (a 10-week residency program at ten high schools reaching nearly 500 students throughout western Massachusetts and New York), participating in classes and training sessions run by Shakespeare & Company's renowned Education Program before being partnered with an experienced director at a high school and leading students through a language-based exploration of a Shakespeare play.

For tickets, Gift Cards and information about the 2014 Performance Season: visit www.shakespeare.org, or call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353, or stop by in person at 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Ticket prices for The Playhouse range from $15 to $80, with discounts from 10-50% off regular ticket prices for Groups, Students, Seniors, Teachers and the Military. Our very popular 40% Off Berkshire County Residents' Discount will again be available. The Playhouse is air-conditioned, wheelchair accessible and hearing-aid assisted. To learn more about the season, discount availability, to order tickets or request a season brochure, visit www.shakespeare.org. Groups: For bookings, parties, and special event rental information and details contact David Joseph, Director of Sales & Group Tours, at (413) 637-1199 ext. 132 or groupsales@shakespeare.org.

Photo by Kevin Sprague

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