SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARKING LOT
TO PRESENT "HENRY VI PART 3" IN SUITS.
July 27 to
August 12, 2017
We can gain insight into our current polarized politics from Shakespeare's plays on the Wars of the Roses. That's why Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, presented by The Drilling Company, will present "Henry VI Part 3" from July 27 to August 12. The play, which is seldom done, lays bare the passions of the Medieval English war between York and Lancaster. In doing so, it illuminates the animosity between today's Republicans and Democrats on one hand and the tenacity of irreconcilable conflicts, including current civil and sectarian wars, on the other. Hamilton Clancy directs.
The Drilling Company has been producer of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot since 2006 and is also the exclusive producer of Shakespeare plays in Bryant Park.
"Henry VI Part 3" revisits the late 1400's, when a series of wars for control of the throne set the House of Lancaster (symbolized by a red rose) against the House of York (symbolized by a white one). This play is one of four in Shakespeare's canon ("Henry VI, Parts 1-3" and "Richard III") that deal with the horrors of these conflicts, which threw the stable country into pandemonium as families broke down and moral codes were vitiated for the sake of payback and power. Hamilton Clancy's adaptation will dress the characters in suits, not armor. He explains, "This is the best play in the canon to reflect our current political polarization. The pitched battle between the two sides seems impossible to reconcile, and that is how we find the public discourse between Republicans and Democrats today."
Clancy says, "Our political discourse is very violent already. We of course are hopeful that it does not get any more violent than it has been recently." He explains that the company considered doing "Julius Caesar" and "Richard III," but considered "Henry VI Part 3" a better match for the confusion of our current time. "It better reflects the antagonism of the two sides and we believe that it matches public discourse on leadership and politics," he says.
The play is also the most violent one in the Shakespeare canon, with more battle scenes (four on stage, one reported) than any of the other plays.
Of course, there are some differences between 15th Century England and our current situation. "It doesn't line up exactly," says Clancy, "so you won't see Trump or Gingrich in it." But putting it in a contemporary setting will make it easy for people to recognize that we are in a political battle. He explains, "We are looking for opportunities to elucidate how violence is not just the violence of weaponry. It is also the violence of legislation that would cause destruction to people."
Clancy also sees the play as instructive on political nepotism. Originally, he thought of interpreting the two houses like crime families, but discarded that approach because "although some of it matched, we have gotten numb to crime family things." Still, he concedes, "we have a leader who delegates power to his family and talks like a gangster. And loyalty is how he does business."
"Henry VI Part 3" is infrequently produced. The Public Theater presented the three parts of Henry VI in Central Park in 1970 as the heavily adapted "Wars of the Roses," directed by Stuart Vaughan. The institution presented the three plays again in 1996 in two three-hour parts at its Astor Place location, directed by Karin Coonrod. Last year, BBC offered the play as part of its four-part series, "The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses." Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, now 23 years old, has never before presented this history play and there is no record of it being produced in any other parking lot. But in their day, Shakespeare's plays of battle, intrigue and betrayal were immensely popular and tremendously entertaining. Their formula precedes such modern analogues as "House of Cards." Their moral impact could also not be overstated: the father-and-son battle scene in "Henry VI Part 3" is one of the most heart-rendering battle scenes in the canon.
The play's central point of focus is Henry VI himself, whom Clancy views as "historically a kind of pacifist" and who tried unsuccessfully to navigate a compromise between the two warring sides. The play contains provocative dialogue about the role and possibility of peacemaking during societal conflict. The King will be played by Schuyler Gallun, who as of this writing is appearing in "Terezin," an acclaimed World War II play on Theater Row.
Parking Lot regulars will recognize Richard of Gloucester as Alessandro Colla, revisiting a role he vividly discovered as Richard III in the Parking Lot in 2013. Lady Margaret will be played by Evangeline Fontaine, who played opposite Colla as Kate in The Drilling Company's "TheTaming of the Shrew" in Bryant Park in 2015. The cast also incudes Joe Clancy (Rutand), Rice Dutton (ensemble), Eddie Fields (George), Maggie Rothberg (Westmoreland), Schuyler Gallun (Henry VI), Christopher Gooley (ensemble), Bill Green (York), Kyle Maxwell (Warwick), Erin Noll (Prince Edward), Kendra Oberhauser (Lady Grey), Ben Peterson (Exeter), Lee Seymour* (Edward) and Bradford Frost (Clifford).
Assistant director is Maggie Rothberg. Stage Managers are Em Hornbeck and Joseph Treimanis. Assistant Stage Manager is Rachel Jeffries.
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