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Shakespeare In The Park Takes On Two Plays

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis opened its 14th season Saturday in Forest Park. This year, there is an additional show to see. Instead of selecting one of the Bard’s 38 plays to perform in Shakespeare Glen, the festival has selected three: “Henry IV Part 1,” “Henry IV Part 2,” and “Henry V.” “Henry IV” has been adapted into one show for a total of two outdoor performances. Both shows are free to the public.

Expanding their show offerings has been a goal for a while now, said Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Artistic and Executive Director Rick Dildine. Because the two plays have the same actors and the same set, they were able to save on costs.

“Over two nights you get to watch over a decade of British history,” said Dildine. “You get to watch one night a guy be the prince and the next night he’s the king. And we get to track all of those decisions over two nights.”

The two shows are scheduled on alternating nights, allowing for continuity of the storyline. Audiences will also get the chance to see the two shows back to back on Saturday, June 7 and Saturday, June 14.

“I call ‘Henry V’ an epic of redemption,” said Bruce Longworth, who is directing the play. “‘Henry IV,’ in terms of the story, begins with Bullingbrook having taken the throne from Richard II, and becoming King Henry IV. And then that story continues with Hal, his son, who becomes Henry V. And a lot of ‘Henry V,’ I think, is about Hal seeking a sign as to whether he is going to be punished for his father usurping the throne.”

In addition to directing “Henry V,” Longworth is associate artistic director at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis as well as professor and head of the acting program at Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts.

Tim Ocel is the director of “Henry IV.”

The cast is made up of 22 actors playing 65 characters, which makes for a complicated rehearsal process, said actor Anderson Matthews, who plays Worcester in “Henry IV” and Montjoy and Erpingham in “Henry V.”

“It’s been on some occasions exhilarating and on other occasions psychotic,” he said. “If you’re not rehearsing in one space and you find yourself with an hour and a half of free time, you don’t have that hour and a half of free time because they shuttle you upstairs to rehearse [the other play].”

For Matthews, one of the highlights of having the two shows performed together is that some of the actors are able to play the same characters in both plays, allowing for enhanced character progression.

Credit Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Actor Jim Butz, for example, remains in the role of Hal/Henry V for both plays.

Other performance highlights include the staging of major fight scenes and original music scores by Greg Coffin. Audience members will also recognize some familiar turns of phrase in both plays, including “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” from “Henry IV” and “Valor is the better part of discretion” from “Henry V.”

Related Events

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Presents "Henry IV"
May 17, 25, 28 and 30 June 1, 4, 6, 8, 11 and 13, 2014
8:00 p.m.
Green Show at 6:30 p.m.
June 7 and 14, 2014
4:30 p.m. (1st part of double feature)

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Presents "Henry V"
May 24, 26, 29 and 31 June 2, 5, 9, 12 and 15, 2014
8:00 p.m.
Green Show at 6:30 p.m.
June 7 and 14, 2014
8:30 p.m. (2nd half of double feature)

Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park (Fine Arts Drive east of the Saint Louis Art Museum)
For more information, call 314-531-9800 or visit the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis website.

Cityscape is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.