Every other year, Lawrence’s theatre department produces a play by William Shakespeare. This year, the department is working on “Richard III.” Professor of Theatre Arts and the J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama Timothy X. Troy is directing. During the process of deciding this season’s shows last year, Troy was approached by senior Chris Follina about doing “Richard III” as a senior project, as it was a show he had been wanting to play in since his freshman year. Troy leaned into it since it would have been a Shakespeare show regardless. Senior Haley Stevens came onto the project as well to satisfy the senior capstone for her theatre arts degree.
In the beginning stages of the project, the two assisted Troy after the auditions to figure out the tracks for double-casting so that students with minor roles could act as more characters without overlap. The show itself was cut from around four hours to a show that runs at about 90 minutes by Troy, as well as another Lawrence alumnus, Olivia Gregovich ‘17, now based in Chicago. A departure from the original script, the central focus of the show and a tagline on the posters is “I, myself alone.” This comes from the Shakespeare show “Henry VI,” which is the play preceding “Richard III.” In this play, Shakespeare develops a lot of the background plot that leads into “Richard III.”
Stevens explained that this focus colors much of the show and how the actors interpret their characters. Richard is obsessed with the idea that everyone is out to betray him, and he spends much of the show punishing those around him for the plots he thinks they have against him. Not only that, but the other characters find themselves in positions where they do what they can for themselves, and that is it.
Along those lines, Stevens advised that one thing to pay attention to is the minor characters. How they choose which side of the conflict they fall on amplifies Richard’s perceptions. Also important to note is that the show starts in a scene towards the end of the script: in a dream Richard has about dying. It subsequently leads into a flashback of how everything fell apart for the king. In a show about this king who kills his brother, ascends to the throne, tricks his sister-in-law into marrying him, accuses many of slander and murders quite a few others along the way, Stevens said that the themes, tyranny, lies and personal relations portrayed in the show mirror what she sees in the political climate in our day. She explained, “History has a tendency to repeat itself.”
This is a show that has a little something for everyone, whether that be Shakespearean language, a hankering for a drama or a love of looking at beautiful sets and costumes. It is not too late to catch a showing! It is open from Thursday, Feb. 20, to Saturday, Feb. 22, in Cloak Theater. Each night has a show at 8 p.m., with an additional 3 p.m. matinee show on the 22nd.