Go Deeper Death of Kings and Patriarchy: Revolution Shakespeare Reads Richard II

Death of Kings and Patriarchy: Revolution Shakespeare Reads Richard II

Posted May 11th, 2018

Whet your appetite for Revolution Shakespeare’s September show and help smash the patriarchy with a non-cis-male staged reading of Richard II, this Monday, May 14, at the Painted Bride Arts Center.

We’ve all heard the story: In Elizabethan theater, women weren’t allowed on stage, so all the female roles in all Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed by male actors (though exceptions were made for Gwyneth Paltrow). These days, some theater companies choose to revisit those troglodyte times by staging all-male versions of the Bard’s canon.

Revolution Shakespeare is not one of those companies.

For its large-scale Fringe Festival show this September 12-22, the company will present Troilus and Cressida with few, if any, actors who identify as male. The production revisits last May’s “Revolt against the Patriarchy” staged reading of the bleak Shakespearean tragedy. Monday’s reading of the beautifully poetic historical drama Richard II is also billed under the same banner.

Revolution Shakespeare presented “all-female” versions of Shakespeare’s oeuvre for several years, but they redubbed the series Revolt Against the Patriarchy “to be less binary, open it up to other voices and also rock the political a bit,” says Rev Shakes artistic director Griffin Stanton-Ameisen.

“When doing any classical text, I worry about the ways misogyny is coded into the storytelling and the language itself. Even though Shakespeare is my all-time favorite playwright, doing his work can feel irresponsible at times,” adds Hannah Van Sciver, who plays the titular poet-king in Monday’s reading. “This cast and artistic team allow me to worry a little bit less about that, as we’re actively combatting it through our casting.”

Why Richard II?

In choosing material, Revolution Shakespeare generally steers away from the big name Shakespeare plays you’ll find in many companies’ seasons. Audiences got the rare chance to see Cymbeline (2017), King John (2016), and Love Labour’s Lost (2015) for FREE in Hawthorne Park at the last three Fringe Festivals. This September’s choice, Troilus and Cressida, hasn’t seen a full staging in the city in recent memory.

Richard II is also rarely produced, despite containing some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful verse and an ambiguous title character who can be seen as a proto-Hamlet in his indecisive poetic disposition. But according to the Revolution Shakespeare team, it’s a fitting play for these times.

“This is a play about the responsibilities of power,” says director Krista Apple of Monday’s text. “The more time I spend with this script, the more timely it becomes.”

The plot traces the fall of a disturbed, politically naive monarch, usurped by a more ruthless rival, Henry Bolingbrook (the Henry IV of Shakespeare’s Henriad, for which Richard II serves as a prequel) — two decidedly flawed characters.

“It’s a play about the corrosive and insidious nature of power,” Apple continues. “How even the best-intentioned rulers are susceptible to corruptive forces.”

To Van Sciver, the play perfectly fits the non-traditional casting. “At its core, the play is about broken and outdated systems of power, and how to navigate through them with compassion,” she says. “Sounds like ideal territory for a revolt against the patriarchy to me!”

See for yourself this Monday.

—Christopher Munden

When: Monday, May 14, 2018 at 6:30pm
Where: The Painted Bride Arts Center, 230 Vine Street
Cost: $15 (includes a drink and a handmade food item)
Directed by Krista Apple. Percussionist Kanako Omae. Featuring June Ballinger, Kimberly Fairbanks, Amy Frear. Colie McClellan, Becca Khalil, Jenna Kuerzi, Christina May, Erlina Ortiz, Sabrina Profitt, Brett Robinson, MB Scallen, Hannah Van Sciver as RICHARD II.
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