By DAVID WEINSTOCK
The 2012 presidential campaign may be rough, but it’s got nothing on the 1483 race for the English crown. William Shakespeare’s Richard III is the original game of thrones, as the Duke of Gloucester connives, deceives and murders his way to the top. Middlebury Actors Workshop’s upcoming production opens Nov. 1 at Town Hall Theater.
MAW director Melissa Lourie, who co-founded the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, has always wanted to stage Richard III in Vermont. “I knew I couldn’t do it until I found the right actor to play Richard,” the Weybridge resident said recently.
Now the time has come. Lourie chose Paul Schnabel for the demanding leading role, which in the rarely performed, full-length version keeps Richard on stage nearly every minute and gives him more than a thousand lines to memorize. Like all Shakespeare directors, Lourie had to decide what to leave out, and has crafted a manageable two-hour version of the classic play.
Schnabel looks forward to the role.
“It’s always fun to play bad guys,” he says. “Today we would probably call Richard a sociopath. He’s completely devoid of empathy for others, and worse than that, he also hates himself.”
Richard, though a powerful warrior, is physically deformed, with a hunchback, a withered arm, and one leg shorter than the other. In preparing for the role, Schnabel feels that that Richard’s outer appearance is meant to embody his inner evil.
If your idea of a Shakespeare hero is Hamlet or Romeo, Richard will be hard to fathom. For background on the character and the play, Middlebury College professor and Shakespeare scholar James Berg will deliver a free lecture before the opening night performance at Memorial Baptist Church across South Pleasant Street from the theater. (The 7 p.m. lecture is open to all, even if your tickets are for a later performance.)
Berg explains that Richard III is a prime example of the long line of “vice characters” in Western drama, from trickster slaves in Plautus to the truant Ferris Bueller. Richard doesn’t apologize for his bloodthirsty ambition, or worry like Hamlet about the morality of his choices. On the contrary, he invites the audience to admire his plan to murder at least eight people, including two nephews and his own wife, to reach his goal, and proceeds immediately to carry out his heartless plan.
The cast combines MAW veterans Karen Lefkoe, Mike Kiernan, Kevin Commins and Gianna Kiehl with a wide range of new faces. The production is set on a strikingly abstract stage designed by Jon Craine that serves equally for palace room and battlefield. Together with costumes in Victorian Gothic style to suggest the 19th century rather than the 15th, the overall effect is a steampunk excursion of the present into the past. Don’t miss it.
RICHARD III by William Shakespeare
Nov. 1-3 at 8 p.m., Nov. 4 at 2 p.m., Town Hall Theater, Middlebury. Also, Nov. 9 at The Paramount Theater, Rutland. For Middlebury tickets and information call 382-9222 or go to townhalltheater.org. For Paramount tickets go to www.paramountvt.org. This project is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Director Melissa Lourie
Acting Coach, Consultant Lindsay Pontius
Scenic Design Jon Craine
Lighting Design Matthew Stone
Costume Design MaryKay Dempewolff
Assistant Costumer Tia Anechiarico
Properties Kate Tilton
Sound Design Sam Hurlburt
Fight Direction Paul Ugalde
Choreography Kendra Gratton
Stage Manager Dora Greven
Program Jacob Safari
Master Carpenter Matthew Stern
Richard, Duke of Gloucester Paul Schnabel
George, Duke of Clarence, his brother Mike Kiernan
Brakenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower Tom McElheney
William, Lord Hastings, Lord Chamberlain Kevin Commins
Lady Anne, widow of the late Prince Edward Gianna Kiehl
Queen Elizabeth, wife of King Edward IV Karen Lefkoe
Lord Rivers, her brother James Moore
Lord Grey, her son by a former marriage Asa Learmonth
Duke of Buckingham, follower of Richard Robert Harte
Lady Stanley, Countess of Derby Wendi Stein
Queen Margaret, widow of the late King Henry VI Deb Gwinn
Sir William Catesby, follower of Richard Peter Espenshade
Sir James Tyrrel, follower of Richard James Moore
A murderer Willy McKay
King Edward IV, brother to Richard & Clarence Cy Moore
Duchess of York, mom to Richard, Clarence & Edward Stephanie Gallas
First Citizen/Messenger Kendra Gratton
Second Citizen/Messenger Sarah Stone
Third Citizen/Messenger Diana Bigelow
Archbishop/Cardinal/Bishop of Ely Jim Stapleton
Young Duke of York, son to Edward & Elizabeth Theo Spackman-Wells
Elizabeth, daughter to Edward & Elizabeth Leila Kiernan
Prince Edward, son and heir to Edward & Elizabeth Matthew Giles
Lord Mayor Richard Wyatt
Sir Richard Ratcliffe, follower of Richard Mark Zelis
Sir James Blunt, follower of Richmond Tom Noble
Henry, Earl of Richmond, later King Henry VII Willy McKay