MD THEATRE GUIDETo be sure, Folger’s Richard III fascinates its audience with its spectacle of characters and its unique perspective, not only on Shakespeare’s play but on Folger Theatre itself, as it is turned into a performance space more akin to its Globe original. -Robert Michael Oliver
DC THEATRE SCENEWhere there are usually seats on the Folger floor, they have been removed, replaced with a stage area rising from off the floor. As the production progresses, we get to see perhaps nine trap doors from which actors appear, and bodies dispatched and disappear. The audience surrounds the stage area as if at a boxing match with others looking down from the balcony, leaning over the boxing ring beneath them. Richmond has his cast of characters use any and all of the Folger space, not just the central stage area, but the aisles and the balconies. -David Siegel
Photo credit: Teresa Woods
In August, 2012, an excavation team discovered a set of human remains under a parking lot in Leicester. After deliberation and DNA testing, it was announced that the bones belonged to Richard III, the last Plantagenet king. How would this change the perception of his reputation? How would it shape future productions of Shakespeare’s play?
Richard’s legacy and personality are problematic at best, and the fact that the discovery of his bones 500 years after his death is still causing such controversy would probably please him to no end. This discovery demands us to re-examine the intersection of fact and fiction, myth and historical record in Richard’s long-contested reign, and in this production we set out to better acquaint ourselves with the man’s psyche, not just his alleged crimes.
We have created an immersive theatrical experience that puts you, the audience member, up close and personal with Richard’s thoughts and decisions. It was quite late in the design process that an epiphany occurred: why not re-design the theatre space? Why not go back to the original design of theatre as a courtyard, and bring a new dimension to watching a play at the Folger? Thus, we decided to allow the play to happen in the center of the room.
We have created a world of palpable curses, magic and superstition; a dangerous, unsettled world of blasphemy and redemption, and we have put you in the very centre of the action. While considering the discovery of the remains under a parking lot, we became interested in the notion of inappropriate burial and the dark sinister forces of the afterlife. A series of trap doors, or graves, in the stage has allowed us to explore the murderous events, and to better allow you to occupy the same space, share the same oxygen, and be complicit with the decision making of a serial killer.
However, one wonders, might there be any justification for Richard’s actions? What might be his rationale for the murders? We know from the text that he can be genial, charming, funny, attentive, sensitive, and seductive. He can also be ruthless, headstrong, cruel and paranoid. We hope that through the course of the evening you will hold a range of contradictory thoughts and feelings about him as you experience his struggle to control his legacy. Finally, we invite you to enjoy this production unlike no other before it on the Folger stage.
Robert Richmond, Director
Tony Cisek, Scenic Designer
Mariah Hale, Costume Designer
Jim Hunter, Lighting Designer
Eric Shimelonis, Sound Designer and Music Composition
Casey Dean Kaleba, Fight Director
Michele Osherow, Resident Dramaturg
Daryl Eisenberg, CSA, New York Casting
Che Wernsman, Production Stage Manager
Keri Schultz, Assistant Stage Manager