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Epic Theatre Ensemble Stages RICHARD III: BORN WITH TEETH Off-Broadway, Now thru 5/4

The Award-Winning Epic Theatre Ensemble, now in their 12th year presents William Shakespeare's RICHARD III: Born With Teeth, part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national program of the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The production, directed by Ron Russell, begins previews Off-Broadway tonight, Tuesday, April 16th and opens Saturday, April 20th at 8:00 PM at the Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street). The play will run through May 4th. Epic Theatre Ensemble's tickets are $25 for this production. Student Rush is also available. For tickets, visit or call (212) 270-4200. For more information, visit

In RICHARD III: Born With Teeth, Epic Theatre Ensemble wraps Shakespeare's words in a contemporary setting where you'll enter the world along side and through the eyes of Shakespeare's most charming, funny and seductively evil actors: Richard III, himself.
Featured in the cast of 10 is James Wallert, in the title role; Peter Jay Fernandez; Melissa Friedman; Devin E. Haqq; Rhett Henckel; Lanna Joffrey; Michael Kirby; James Joseph O'Neil; Carra Patterson and Godfrey L. Simmons.

The design team for RICHARD III: Born With Teeth is comprised of
Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams (sets), Cat Tate Starmer (lighting), Margaret E. Weedon (costumes) and Ron Russell (sound).

Every performance of RICHARD III: Born With Teeth will be immediately followed by a post performance forum lead by scholars, authors, and thinkers connected to the content of the show.. This series is sponsored by the New York City Council on the Humanities. Speakers already confirmed for the series include journalist and author Jonathan Alter (April 18th "Political Manipulation"), playwright and producer Keith Josef Adkins (April 19th "Diversity in the American Theatre") and author and profession John McWhorter (April 26th, "The Language of Political Manipulation"). Past participants have included author Chris Hedges, former Senator Bob Kerry, James Shapiro, and other noted Shakespeare scholars.

Founded in 2001, Epic Theatre Ensemble is a company of artists and activists dedicated to creating socially minded Off-Broadway productions, and to connecting these theatrical events to NYC Public Schools through rigorous in school and after-school residencies. Epic aims to inspire vital dialogue about social, ethical, and political issues and to build thoughtful citizenship in local communities. Epic's past productions include: the critically acclaimed New York premiere of Sarah Ruhl's Passion Play; Nilaja Sun's No Child... (commissioned, developed and premiered by Epic prior to its commercial transfer and national tour); the premieres of Beauty on The Vine (featuring Epic associates David Strathairn and Olivia Wilde), Hannah and Martin by Kate Fodor (featuring David Strathairn), Einstein's Gift by Vern Thiessen (featuring Aasif Mandvi and Shawn Elliott), Habitat by Judith Thompson; and the revivals of George Bernard Shaw's Widowers' Houses (with Peter Jay Fernandez), Henrik Ibsen's Little Eyolf, and J.B. Priestley's Time and the Conways. Epic Theatre Ensemble was founded by Zak Berkman, Melissa Friedman, Teri Lamm, Ron Russell and James Wallert, and additional Producing Artists Godfrey L. Simmons Jr. and Sarah Winkler have since joined the founding team. Epic is the proud recipient of OBIE, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics and OTTO Awards, the 2009 "Coming Up Taller" Award from the President's Council for the Arts and Humanities for their flagship educational program, Shakespeare Remix, as well as citations from Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.

The performance schedule for RICHARD III: Born With Teeth is: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm and Saturdays at 8:00 pm. There is an additional performance on Tuesday, April 16th at 7:30 pm and the show is dark on Thursday, May 2nd. This production runs through Saturday, May 4th at 8PM. The play is performed at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater at the Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42 Street).

Epic Theatre Ensemble's tickets are $25 for this production. There will also be $10 Student Rush tickets at the box office. Advance tickets are available through Ticket Central by calling (212) 279-4200 or visiting

Ron Russell (Director, Sound Designer, Executive Director of Epic Theatre Ensemble) Ron co-founded Epic as an attempt to synthesize: the Neuroscience degree and the passion for activism he received from Oberlin College; the MFA in directing from Louisiana State University that he received while helping found the state theatre of Louisiana, Swine Palace; and his lifelong belief in the power of arts education to catalyze social change. After acting as Founding Artistic Director of the nationally acclaimed Summer Theatre Enrichment Program at El Centro de Servicios in Lorain, Ohio, from 1992-1995, Ron founded UBI Rep Theatre in San Diego, then came to New York City as Education Director at Theatre for a New Audience. From 1996-2001 Ron administered one of the nation's most exciting and in-depth programs for introducing NYC Public School students to Shakespeare, serving over 25,000 students during his tenure. He has also directed extensively regionally and in NYC, including 14 Off-Broadway productions (9 for Epic, including Macbeth, Kate Fodor's Hannah and Martin, Vern Thiessen's Einstein's Gift, and George Bernard Shaw's Widowers' Houses in a new adaptation he co-wrote with Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr.). He co-adapted and directed Antigone and The Visit for Epic's in-school "Journeys Series" and co-designs curricula at Epic's partners schools. He is a Lead Teaching Artist and Site Manager of Epic's year-long sequential programs at the Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts, where he also directs Epic's nationally-acclaimed afterschool Shakespeare Remix. His teaching experience includes over 50 educational sites, reaching over 15,000 young people, and his work as an educator in NYC has been recognized by citations from the Municipal Arts Society and Mayors Guiliani and Bloomberg.

Peter Jay Fernandez (Hastings) Recent: Luz (La Mama), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (New Haarlem Arts), CQ/CX ( Atlantic Theater Co.). Broadway: Cyrano de Bergerac, Henry IV, Jelly's Last Jam, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice. Off Broadway; Macbeth, The Pain and the Itch, Too Much Memory, Widowers Houses, Thunder Knocking on the Door, Phaedra in Delirium, As You Like It, Henry VIII, Spell# 7, Coriolanus, Split Second, Checkmates and more. TV/Film; "House of Cards," "Deception(TV)," "The Good Wife," "Blue Bloods," "Body of Proof," "Law and Order(s)," "Mama I Want to Sing," The Adjustment Bureau, Deception (Film), Preaching to the Choir, Funny Valentines and more. Awards: Audelco (2), Helen Hayes (Nom.), BTTA(Nom), Audie Award (narration).

Melissa Friedman (Elizabeth, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Epic Theatre Ensemble) Melissa holds an MFA in Acting from The Old Globe/University of San Diego and a BA in Theatre from Oberlin College. Before co-founding Epic, Melissa worked as a Lead Teaching Artist with many NYC theatres including Roundabout Theatre Company, Brooklyn Academy Of Music's Shakespeare Teaches program, and Theatre for a New Audience. As Epic's Education Director, she co-developed Epic's Citizen Artist curriculum and acts as a Lead Teaching Artist in Epic's partner schools and outreach programs. As an actor, she has appeared in many Off-Broadway productions including as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing as well as many Epic productions including Time and the Conways, Habitat, Hannah and Martin opposite David Strathairn, Einstein's Gift, A Hard Heart with Kathleen Chalfant, and A More Perfect Unione. Her numerous regional theatre productions include playing a witch to Victor Garber's Macbeth and Lady Mortimer in Jack O'Brien's production of Henry IV with John Goodman. In Epic's Journeys Series, she performs the roles of Emilia in Othello, The Chorus Leader in Antigone and Clytemnestra in Ipphigenia. Melissa has directed 7 of Epic's after-school Shakespeare Remix Productions including Macbeth, The Winter's Tale and Richard III. On behalf of Epic, Melissa received the 2009 Coming Up Taller Award for Shakespeare Remix from First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony. She has published in the Teaching Artist Journal and sat on the Arts-in-Education Panel of the New York State Council on the Arts. Melissa has led Professional Development workshops throughout New York State including at the Empire State Partnership's Summer Seminar, Common Ground, Face to Face, and NYU's Steinhardt School of Education.

Devin E. Haqq (Catesby) Native of Nashville, Tennessee, has appeared Off-Broadway at the Barrow Group, Roundabout Theatre Company, and most recently in Epic Theatre Ensemble's production of Macbeth. Devin has also appeared in numerous regional theatre productions including As You Like It (The Arden Theatre) and Camp Logan (Boston Center for the Arts). He is a graduate of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's MFA program. Film/TV credits include: Secret Game (on ESPN), Surprise (HBO promo directed by Sam Mendes), "Law & Order"(on NBC directed by Arthur Forney), the award winning independent film, Francis of Brooklyn ('12), and The Assassin ('07).

Rhett Henckel (Clarence) OFF BROADWAY: Macbeth, Othello (Epic). OTHER NY: Jester's Dead (The Outfit); A Doll's House (Infinite Theatre), The Bear (Midtown Theatre Festival). REGIONAL: Dying City, Earth & Sky (Second Thought Theatre); Othello (Shakespeare on the Sound); Hamlet (Dallas Shakespeare Festival), Lady of Larkspur Lotion(Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival), Measure for Measure, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Restoration Comedy, Othello, Titus Andronicus (The Old Globe), Burn This, Speed-The-Plow, Pounding Nails... (Actors' Theatre of San Antonio), Towards Zero (Dorset Theatre Festival). Film/TV: "Boardwalk Empire," The Last Day of August, "iChannel" (web series). BFA: Baylor University. MFA: The Old Globe.

Lanna Joffrey (Margaret) Select Theatre: OverRuled (Performa), Measure for Measure (The Public), 1001 (Denver Center), Nine Parts of Desire (Lyric Stage & Kitchen Theatre), Valiant (NY Fringe/InterAct), Sad and Merry Madness (The Public), Hamlet Re-Mix (Epic Theatre), The Strangest (HERE), The House of the Spirits (Denver Center), Inspector General & Comedy of Errors (Colorado Shakespeare Festival), Metamorphoses (Capital Repertory), Damascus (Northern Stage), Mac Wellman's Cellophane (The Flea), Like I Say (The Flea), Saviana Stanescu's Waxing West (Goldberg Festival), Awards: IRNE Award (Nine Parts of Desire), Ovation Award (1001), NY Fringe Performance Award & NY Innovative Theatre nomination (Valiant), Ovation Award Nomination (Inspector General). Select Film/TV: Druid Peak, Security, Fishing Naked, New Americans, Delocated.

Michael Kirby (Rivers) Michael is a proud Epic Ensemble Artist. New York: Othello (Epic); Merry Wives of Windsor (Brave New World); Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet (Hip to Hip Theatre); Jesters Dead (The Outfit); Epicene (re:Directions) Regional: School of Night, The Goat (Mark Taper Forum); The American Plan, Romeo and Juliet, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Measure for Measure, Hamlet (Old Globe); Berkeley Square (East Lynne Theatre); A Tale of Charles Dickens (LA Theatre Works); Chekhov x 4 (Antaeus); Spite for Spite, Don Juan (Andak Stage Company) Film: Connected, Chase The Slut, Benevolence; Television: "Admiral" (PBS); "Boston Public"; MTV. Michael earned his MFA from The Old Globe/USD.

James Joseph O'Neil (Buckingham) Broadway: Present Laughter with Victor Garber, directed by Nicholas Martin, Roundabout. Off B'wy: The Hired Man (47th St. Theatre), Look Back in Anger (CSC). Regional: American Repertory Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Rep, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Huntington Theatre Co., Baltimore Center Stage, Old Globe, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, American Stage Festival, Long Wharf, Pioneer Theatre Co. Film/TV: Deep Powder, Dovid Meyer, The Bourne Legacy, Fair Game, Zodiac, Acts of Worship, "Law & Order,:SVU,;CI," "24," Veronica Mars," "Third Watch," "Sex & the City." BFA Adelphi U, MFA USD/Old Globe.

Carra Patterson (Lady Anne) Broadway: Wit (Susie Monahan, MTC). Off Broadway: Luck of the Irish (Lincoln Center 3) Measure for Measure (Public). Regional: In the Red & Brown Water (Alliance), Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (dir. Kenny Leon, True Colors),The Wiz (True Colors), Henry Box Brown (a Tony Kushner musical, dir. MarK Wing-Davey). MFA: NYU Graduate Acting Program.

Godfrey L. Simmons, Jr. (Edward) 2012 Fox Fellow. Epic Theatre Ensemble: Dispatches From (A)mended America, (Co-writer), Macbeth, Othello, A More Perfect Union, Sarah Ruhl's Passion Play, Widowers' Houses (Co-adapted with Ron Russell), A Hard Heart, and Einstein's Gift. Off-Broadway: The Old Settler with Leslie Uggams (Primary Stages, Audelco Award), Betty's Summer Vacation (Playwrights Horizons), Fast Blood (Lark Play Development Center), Free Market (Working Theatre), Ice Island (Melting Pot Theatre), Murder in the Cathedral (Brooklyn HQ/Hoi Polloi), and Leader of the People (New Georges). Regional: Two Trains Running, A Raisin in the Sun, and Blues For An Alabama Sky (Syracuse Stage), Home (Round House Theatre), A Raisin in the Sun, The Grapes of Wrath, Antigone, and The Comedy of Errors (Schwarz Center for Performing Arts) Antigone, Our Town, Romeo and Juliet, and Peter Pan (People's Light and Theatre Company), Spunk (Barrington Stage), The Old Settler (TheatreWorks). Member of Ensemble Studio Theatre and Lark Playground. Film: The Lost Children (Co-Writer, dir. Mark Harris). Other films by Audrea Topps (Raw Intensity, Hard Candy) and Christina Kotz-Cornejo (The Appointment). Television: "All My Children," "As the World Turns," "Law and Order," "NYPD Blue" and "Third Watch."

James Wallert (Richard) As an actor with Epic, James has appeared Off-Broadway in Dispatches from (A)mended America, Macbeth, Othello, Mahida's Extra Key to Heaven, A Hard Heart, Widowers' Houses, Einstein's Gift, Hannah and Martin, Habitat, Little Eyolf and Time & The Conways. He recently directed Henry VI for the Shakespeare Remix program. Other theatre credits include Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and All in the Timing at the Old Globe Theatre, Pride's Crossing and Three Days of Rain at Northern Stage, Tis Pity She's a Whore at HERE Arts Center, Much Ado About Nothing at the Kansas Shakespeare Festival and King Lear at the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival. TV and Film credits include FOX Television's Time of Your Life, Just the Beat, and Tumbling After. Since Co-Founding Epic Theatre Ensemble in 2001, James has curated and administered Epic's Forum Series (funded by the New York Council for the Humanities), serving over 25,000 audience members. He is currently the lead teaching artist and site manager at Chelsea Vocational High School, where he oversees Epic's sequential learning program. MFA- Acting, Old Globe/University of San Diego; BA- Theatre, University of Kansas.

Pictured: Richard (James Wallert) implores Lady Anne (Carra Patterson); She must kill him or marry him. Photo Credit: Steven Boling.

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