Folger Theatre- Washington, DC



“Henry VIII: A crown jewel – Folger Theatre uses the whimsy of Will S. to lighten the heavy drama – Though Richmond stints on pageantry – the sprawling tapestry is embodied by a mere 11 actors – this Henry VIII is not without its compelling spectacle.”

-Peter Marks


“The production’s other great success is the directorial innovation: the deployment of an impish Louis Butelli as Will Sommers, the king’s jester, who’s not in the original at all, but who here seems as essential as the dynamic underscoring, and as unifying an influence, too.”

-Trey Graham



Henry VIII Tenure File


My fascination with Henry VIII started in my early childhood. I am originally from Hastings, a small seaside town on the southeast coast of England, and some 40 miles from Hever Castle, the family home of Ann Boleyn. I can remember being taken on trips every summer to this incredible castle in Edenbridge, set in the beautiful Kent countryside. Locked in my memory is the initial approach to the castle itself. It has a
moat, which is flanked by twin towers, and made complete by a wooden drawbridge and imposing portcullis. It is – in a small boy’s imagination – just what a castle should look like. I played for many hours among the armor and the tapestry, and it awakened my interest in this period of history.

Shakespeare’s Henry VIII is usually conceived as a large-scale epic drama, full of spectacle and pageantry. However, the creative team of this production found it to be more compelling as a human story, a play about life as a monarch– full of betrayals and scandals. Our focus has been on the private rather than the public and to take the audience through the keyhole into the back rooms to view these historical events.

The Folger Library Theatre is a perfect setting for such a jewel box of a production. With it’s Elizabethan décor, the period setting beautifully highlights a world of domestic scandal and political intrigues. The atmosphere and intimacy that the theatre holds, in tandem with the Grolier Club’s exhibition, creates a production that will illuminate and broaden our understanding of Henry’s true nature. We hope this production will take you on a journey where you can better examine if Henry is struggling with ideas of identity and conscience? Or if his “duty” to produce an heir is an obsession, or an excuse?

It is also extremely timely and appropriate material for Washington, DC. The play’s three central stories underline the wheel of fortune: the rise and fall of those with political power, bribery and subordination are exposed, and the treachery and betrayals that are needed to climb the political ladder. Moreover, at its heart it argues repeatedly that a person is defined by his or her conscience. In this time – where our financial institutions are exposed and embezzlements happen daily; where difficult decisions are
made for the greater good; where lives are sacrificed for the liberties and freedoms of others; where our leaders have their divorce’s dissected in the public arena; it seems right to produce a play that asks us to examine our own moral conscience.

Perhaps, through Henry VIII we might better understand the trials and tribulations of public office and world leadership. Perhaps, we might examine our veracious need for gossip and scandal, and in doing so remember Griffith’s words at the end of Wolsey’s life when he concludes:

Men’s evil manners live in brass, their virtues
We write in water. Act 4 scene 2

-Robert Richmond


  • The James MacArthur Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Resident Play

Louis Butelli


  • Outstanding Costume Design, Resident Production

William Ivey Long

  • Outstanding Director, Resident Play

Robert Richmond

  • Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Play

Naomi Jacobson

  • Outstanding Lighting Design, Resident Production

Klyph Stanford

  • Outstanding Set Design, Resident Production

Tony Cisek

  • Outstanding Sound Design, Resident Production

Anthony Cochrane

Michael Rasbury

  • The Robert Prosky Award for Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Play

Ian Merrill Peakes

  • Outstanding Ensemble, Resident Play
  • Outstanding Resident Play


Director– Robert Richmond

Scenic Design—Tony Cisek*

Costume Design—William Ivey Long*

Lighting Design—Klyph Standford*

Composer/Sound Design—Anthony Cochrane

Co-Sound Design—Michael Rasbury

Resident Dramaturg—Michele Osherow

Production Stage Manager—Che Wernsman**

Promotional Photography—James Kegley

Production Photography—Carol Pratt