Murray, Rees Star in Williamstown 'Lost' Shakespeare Play

This summer season, the Williamstown Theatre Festival presents events on Mondays when there are no performances of the Festival's theatrical productions.  The second event of the season will be Monday, August 7 at 8:00 on the Main Stage when the Festival presents a reading of The History of Cardenio, Shakespeare's "lost" play.

The History of Cardenio is based on a story written by Miguel de Cervantes, one of Europe 's greatest prose novelists; dramatized by William Shakespeare, one of Europe 's greatest verse dramatist; in collaboration with John Fletcher, the most popular and respected English dramatist of the seventeenth century. 

Brian Murray leads the cast as Don Quixote.  Murray's many Broadway appearances include The Crucible, Uncle Vayna, Twelfth Night, The Little Foxes and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.  He has received three Tony award nominations.   Joining him is Roger Rees, Artistic Director of the Festival and a Tony and Olivier award winner and Emmy nominee for his role in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby.  This season at Williamstown, Rees directed Anything Goes and is directing the upcoming Double Double, which he co-wrote.

Also appearing are Tom Bloom (Henry IV, The Rehearsal), Laurie Naughton (The Price and more at Williamstown), Brian Smiar (Mixed Emotions).  The balance of the cast is made up of Festival actors.

Joseph Cacaci directs the reading.  For TV, he is the producer of "Copshop," and "The Hoop Life," writer and producer of "The Education of Max Bickford," and writer for "The Client" and "L.A. Law".

Shakespeare and Cervantes both died in 1616, within a few days of each another.  Only three years before, Shakespeare wrote a play based upon Cervantes' most famous work Don Quixote, shortly after publication of its English translation.  The title of the play refers to a character in Don Quixote.  

Gary Taylor, who reconstructed the play, says  "The History of Cardenio was the first play Shakespeare worked on after The Tempest.  Cardenio was an immediate theatrical success.  None of Shakespeare's other late plays received two court performances in their first season. 

Despite its success, the play has been neglected, even considered 'lost.'  There are historical reasons for this neglect. Shakespeare's part-authorship of Cardenio with John Fletcher was not accepted until the second half of the twentieth century.  And like Pericles and The Two Noble Kinsmen, Cardenio was not included in the 1623 edition of Shakespeare's plays, presumably because it was written in collaboration.      

"The word 'history' in the title is particularly charged, for this play is the history wholly fictional character. The history of Cardenio is both a story told about Cardenio, and a story told by Cardenio.  Also, in Renaissance England, history could mean both "fiction" and "fact", both "words" and "events." Like Don Quixote, The History of Cardenio is an enactment of the tangled relationship between two opposed meanings of history.

The History of Cardenio is a remarkable play, a moving and amusing middle-class romance, or post-romance, written by Shakespeare and Fletcher in 1613, and well worth restoring to the repertoire of the English dramatic imagination."

Tickets are $15 for Williamstown Theatre Festival members, $10 for students and $20 for all others and are available at www.wtfestival.org, 413.597.3400, and the Festival Box Office. 

Williamstown Theatre Festival performances are held at The '62 Center for Theatre and Dance of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts


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