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TN Shakespeare Co. Stages Free HENRY VI: Wars of the Roses

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All performances are free and open to the public while limited, socially-distanced seating is available. 

TN Shakespeare Co. Stages Free HENRY VI: Wars of the Roses

Tennessee Shakespeare Company launches its fifth annual Free Shakespeare Shout-Out Series on September 14 outdoors at Wiseacre Brewery's Broad Avenue location with the regional premiere adaptation of William Shakespeare's King Henry VI: The Wars of the Roses, generously sponsored by Evans/Petree, P.C.

All performances are free and open to the public while limited, socially-distanced seating is available. No tickets or reservations are required. First come/first seated. Each host venue is partnering with TSC to ensure all Shelby County health mandates are being met. Patrons are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket for seating, and to picnic.

Directed by Stephanie Shine, this 100-minute production runs without intermission and performs outdoors ten times throughout the Memphis area at nine event venues and fun, non-traditional spaces through September 25.

The outdoor venues include Collierville Town Square, The Grove at Germantown Performing Arts Center, Downtown's Memphis River Park, Overton Square, Germantown Library, Singleton Community Center in Bartlett, International Harvester's Managerial Park in Lakeland, and Wiseacre Brewery on S. BB King Boulevard.

King Henry VI: The Wars of the Roses is a creative conflation adapted by Shine of Shakespeare's three earliest action-packed History plays that feature England's civil wars complete with political intrigue, international conflict, and power-grabs by the nobility. Shakespeare introduces audiences to several powerful characters in the plays, including Joan of Arc, Richard III, Jack Cade and his rebellion, and the ferocious Queen Margaret.

Shakespeare did not write the three plays in chronological order, but when grouped by historical occurences with his equally-early Richard III, the four plays form a serial tetralogy (one of two in Shakespeare's canon) that lets audiences track multiple characters over time. The three Henry VI plays cover more than 50 years, beginning with the death of King Henry V in 1422 and leaving audiences with a cliff-hanger as Richard violently angles for the throne himself.

The quick-changing cast of eight actors includes TSC veterans Lauren Gunn (Sir Lucy, Joan La Pucelle, Margaret of Anjou), Michael Khanlarian (Plantagenet-then York, Dick the butcher, Prince Edward), and Nicolas Dureaux Picou (Warwick, Jack Cade), and introduces Kellan Oelkers (King Henry, Alanson, Rutland), Austin Michael Russell (Talbot, Disenter, Iden, Clifford), Kashief Alan Crain (Exeter, Reignier, King Lewis), Malachi Marrero (Suffolk, Charles the Dauphin, Edward: son of York-then King Edward), and Riley Fox Hillyer (Somerset, Richard: son of York).

"These early plays of Shakespeare address the inner workings of the hearts of these characters, all of whom are related and all of whom want the throne, says Shine. "Shakespeare went right to a most outrageous time in his country's not-too-distant history and reimagined timelines and events not to wield an accurate history, rather to create an exciting historical fiction with unforgettable characters faced with unbelievable happenings. In these stories live the superheroes and supervillains of his boyhood. He grew up in view of Warwick's castle and walked the grounds where many of these events took place. It was real and potent for young William. In fact, he had so much to share that he needed three plays to contain the stories. He also knew his audiences would love the content of these plays: by becoming intimate with their own history, Shakespeare's audiences learned who they were as a people."

"This adaptation, a veritable world premiere, lets our audience focus on a few key players with one easily perceived through-line: obtaining the throne of England. The spectacular and surprising Margaret of Anjou is introduced and developed here, becoming the only character in Shakespeare to appear in four of his plays. By the time Margaret makes her final exit in the play that follows the Henry VI's (Richard III), she has proven herself to be the sole survivor of the Wars of the Roses. It is thrilling to bring this warrior woman to visceral life for Memphis area audiences, who have likely never seen her in her youth and full power before."

The production is set in the plays' historical periods, and the actors' voices will be amplified from the stage.

The production design team includes Allison White (costumes), Lauren Gunn (fight director), Jeremy Allen Fisher (scenic/production manager), Burkett Horrigan (stage manager), P.J. Townsend (assistant stage manager), James Baker (assistant technical director),.


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