ST. LOUIS (Sept. 23, 2013) -- In a dramatic departure from previous years, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis will be producing three plays in two alternating shows -- Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V -- at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. This will mark the Festival’s 14th season of producing free performances in an outdoor setting and the first time audiences will be invited to experience more than one of Shakespeare’s works in repertory.
“Audience members can expect a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience next season,” said Rick Dildine, artistic and executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. “Many theaters around the world have performed these plays in consecutive seasons; however, we are performing them at the same time with the same cast on the same set. Our audiences will get to experience a theatrical event that is rarely performed in this way.”
Henry IV, Parts 1& 2, written originally as two separate plays, will be edited to fit into one evening. It will open on May 17 and will be directed by Tim Ocel. Henry V, directed by newly appointed Bruce Longworth will open on May 24. The shows will then alternate evenings. There will be two Saturdays -- June 7 and June 14 -- when the audience will be able to see both plays back-to-back in one day. Both shows will be produced to stand alone as complete evenings of theater. The design team and cast will be announced at a later date.
In addition to two opening nights and a slightly expanded performance run
(May 17 - June 15), the two productions will require four extra weeks of rehearsal built into the regular schedule. Rehearsal time will be split between both shows with actors working with two directors on a near daily basis. The productions will feature the same cast of approximately 21 performers playing multiple parts
The 2014 Season also adds two new professionals to the SFSTL staff: Jennifer Stoffel, former Director of External Affairs at the Saint Louis Art Museum, will join SFSTL as Deputy Director, and award-winning director Bruce Longworth will become Associate Artistic Director.
“We are thrilled that Jennifer and Bruce have joined the Festival team as we enter this epic season,” Dildine said. “Jennifer is one of the most respected arts leaders in St. Louis and will bring a new level of sophistication to our marketing, development, and communication efforts. Bruce is highly regarded as one of the best theatre artists in the country, and he’s become one of my closest collaborators. It was a natural step.”
The cost for producing two shows will be about 25 percent more, with the main source of those expenses being the additional rehearsal time. The Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Board of Directors has increased its personal gift by more than 20 percent in support of the two-show format and many individuals, corporations, and foundations have already committed to increasing their support as well.
“Three years ago, our Board adopted a strategic plan with a goal of creating a true festival atmosphere and diversifying our production offerings,” said Jessica Holzer, SFSTL board president. “This is our first step in experimenting with a larger repertory format. Drawing on our strengths of producing large-scale outdoor Shakespeare plays for free, we decided this was the best next step in adding programming. Our audiences have grown over 30 percent since 2009 and we surveyed our audience members who enthusiastically supported an additional production.”
Henry IV Part 1 is believed to have been written no later than 1597; Henry IV, Part II, sometime between 1596-99; and Henry V in approximately 1599. The stories are part of Shakespeare’s tetralogy about the successive reigns of Richard II, Henry IV (two plays) and Henry V.
According to Dildine, Shakespeare worked within a repertory format when he was making theater. Actors would have parts memorized in several plays and be ready to perform different roles throughout the week.
“For our first attempt into a repertory format, we felt we should make an event out of it,” Dildine said. “We didn’t want to do just two plays. We wanted two plays that would be viewed together as a theatrical event that would draw local, regional and national audience members. Neither play has been performed before by the Festival. Plus, both plays deal specifically with leadership, succession, and war, issues that are incredibly timely to Americans. Our efforts have already intrigued designers and actors across the country who want to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Director Tim Ocel, who will be directing Henry IV, has created regional productions for American Players Theatre, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Theatre Emory in Atlanta, Georgia Shakespeare Festival and Sacramento Theatre Company. He also has artistic relationships with Indiana Repertory Theatre and Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, NY. Ocel is a frequent Guest Artist at Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts in St. Louis. Award-winning director Bruce Longworth, who directed “Othello” (2012) and “Hamlet” (2010) for the Festival, will direct Henry V. This marks the first time a director has returned for a third production in the history of the festival.
In the past 13 years, the Shakespeare Festival has attracted more than 600,000 people to the performances in Forest Park. The organization has reached an additional 250,000 students through its educational touring productions, school program, summer camps and community partnerships. For more information, please visit www.sfstl.com or call 314/531-9800.