From Thursday, April 13 to Sunday, April 23, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival and Lipscomb University will present Richard II at the university's Shamblin Theatre.
It is an opportunity for locals to see one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works, dealing with perennially-relevant themes like power, family, and loyalty. Focusing on a title character that must balance personal and political decisions, audiences are likely to relate the play to current events.
“[Shakespeare’s] political plays make us see that across centuries, we haven’t changed much,” Denice Hicks, the executive artistic director of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, said. “Shakespeare shows us the good, the bad, and the really ugly of politics and the consequences that selfish or noble actions provoke. We’re not drawing any specific parallels, but the viewer should be able to recognize political archetypes among the characters in this play and make their own connections.”
To modernize the material even further, the production will feature an all-female cast that combines professionals and Lipscomb students.
“Casting with all one gender engages the audience’s imagination and makes them active participants in the play,” Hicks explained. “When an actress can imagine and portray the circumstances of a character as well as any actor, why not have a female playing a king? Theater is about telling stories and it just so happens that the storytellers in this production are all women.”
The director, Sean Martin, has also made edits to the script in an effort to better engage audiences.
“Sean is using one of Richard’s later soliloquies as an entry point and through line, pulling the audience into Richard’s mind from the first moment,” Hicks said. “The audience works through the story with Richard as he pieces together the scenes that illustrate the last days of his reign. So even if someone isn’t familiar with the King Richard II story, it’s not hard to follow what brings about his downfall.”
Performances run Thursdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. with 2:30 matinees on the Saturdays and the final Sunday. Tickets are available at the door or at theatre.lipscomb.edu.