The Bard Gets Double Billing
SINCE ITS INAUGURAL production of “Romeo and Juliet” in 2001, the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis has focused its annual summer “In the Park” series on just one play. With the May 17 season kick-off, the Shakespeare Festival will for the first time present two works: “Henry IV” and “Henry V.”
“For the past five years, we’ve been talking about how a festival is more than one thing,” says Rick Dildine, artistic and executive director. “This is our first step. We wanted to do something epic.”
“All things are ready, if our mind be so,” reads the quote from the Bard’s “Henry V”—and it rings true for SFSTL. While Dildine notes that the transition to two shows is the “natural evolution of the festival,” he also says that the Shakespearean stars seemed to align. Tim Ocel will direct and adapt “Henry IV,” and Bruce Longworth, SFSTL associate artistic director, will direct “Henry V.” “The two directors match up perfectly with these plays,” Dildine says. “Their directing styles and aesthetics are incredibly similar.” Choosing the Henry plays for the first multi-play summer also makes economic sense.
The shows will feature the same set and many of the same actors and costumes, though in addition to having two directors, there will be a larger cast among the two shows, a longer rehearsal and a slightly larger costuming department. Dildine isn’t worried people will come for one show but not the other, noting that today’s audiences are very accustomed to taking in multiple episodes of a single story. “We’re looking forward to seeing a large part of our audience return and see both,” he says. Moreover, Shakespeare aficionados can take in both productions on June 7 and June 14, when back-to-back performances will occur with “Henry IV” at 4:30pm and a performance of “Henry V” at 8:30pm, with a break between for dinner. The festival kicks off in Forest Park’s Shakespeare Glen with “Henry IV” opening May 17, and “Henry V” opening May 24, after which they will be performed on alternate nights (except Tuesdays) through June 15.
Photo credit: David Levy