THEATER PREVIEW – Local troupe to stage original ‘Game of Thrones’: Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’

The 2012 presidential campaign may be rough, but it’s got nothing on the 1483 race for the English crown. William Shakespeare’s Richard III is the original game of thrones, as the Duke of Gloucester connives, deceives and murders his way to the top. Middlebury Actors Workshop’s upcoming production opens Nov. 1 at Town Hall Theater.
MAW director Melissa Lourie, who co-founded the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, has always wanted to stage Richard III in Vermont. “I knew I couldn’t do it until I found the right actor to play Richard,” the Weybridge resident said recently.
Now the time has come. Lourie chose Paul Schnabel for the demanding leading role, which in the rarely performed, full-length version keeps Richard on stage nearly every minute and gives him more than a thousand lines to memorize. Like all Shakespeare directors, Lourie had to decide what to leave out, and has crafted a manageable two-hour version of the classic play.
Schnabel looks forward to the role.
“It’s always fun to play bad guys,” he says. “Today we would probably call Richard a sociopath. He’s completely devoid of empathy for others, and worse than that, he also hates himself.”
Richard, though a powerful warrior, is physically deformed, with a hunchback, a withered arm, and one leg shorter than the other. In preparing for the role, Schnabel feels that that Richard’s outer appearance is meant to embody his inner evil.
If your idea of a Shakespeare hero is Hamlet or Romeo, Richard will be hard to fathom. For background on the character and the play, Middlebury College professor and Shakespeare scholar James Berg will deliver a free lecture before the opening night performance at Memorial Baptist Church across South Pleasant Street from the theater. (The 7 p.m. lecture is open to all, even if your tickets are for a later performance.)
Berg explains that Richard III is a prime example of the long line of “vice characters” in Western drama, from trickster slaves in Plautus to the truant Ferris Bueller. Richard doesn’t apologize for his bloodthirsty ambition, or worry like Hamlet about the morality of his choices. On the contrary, he invites the audience to admire his plan to murder at least eight people, including two nephews and his own wife, to reach his goal, and proceeds immediately to carry out his heartless plan.
The cast combines MAW veterans Karen Lefkoe, Mike Kiernan, Kevin Commins and Gianna Kiehl with a wide range of new faces. The production is set on a strikingly abstract stage designed by Jon Craine that serves equally for palace room and battlefield. Together with costumes in Victorian Gothic style to suggest the 19th century rather than the 15th, the overall effect is a steampunk excursion of the present into the past. Don’t miss it.
RICHARD III by William Shakespeare
Nov. 1-3 at 8 p.m., Nov. 4 at 2 p.m., Town Hall Theater, Middlebury. Also, Nov. 9 at The Paramount Theater, Rutland. For Middlebury tickets and information call 382-9222 or go to townhalltheater.org. For Paramount tickets go to www.paramountvt.org. This project is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Director                                Melissa Lourie
Acting Coach, Consultant      Lindsay Pontius
Scenic Design                              Jon Craine
Lighting Design                     Matthew Stone
Costume Design            MaryKay Dempewolff
Assistant Costumer               Tia Anechiarico
Properties                                  Kate Tilton
Sound Design                          Sam Hurlburt
Fight Direction                          Paul Ugalde
Choreography                        Kendra Gratton
Stage Manager                           Dora Greven
Program                                    Jacob Safari
Master Carpenter                     Matthew Stern
Richard, Duke of Gloucester                                               Paul Schnabel
George, Duke of Clarence, his brother                                   Mike Kiernan
Brakenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower                                Tom McElheney
William, Lord Hastings, Lord Chamberlain                       Kevin Commins
Lady Anne, widow of the late Prince Edward                          Gianna Kiehl
Queen Elizabeth, wife of King Edward IV                               Karen Lefkoe
Lord Rivers, her brother                                                      James Moore
Lord Grey, her son by a former marriage                              Asa Learmonth
Duke of Buckingham, follower of Richard                               Robert Harte
Lady Stanley, Countess of Derby                                          Wendi Stein
Queen Margaret, widow of the late King Henry VI                     Deb Gwinn
Sir William Catesby, follower of Richard                         Peter Espenshade
Sir James Tyrrel, follower of Richard                                    James Moore
A murderer                                                                      Willy McKay
King Edward IV, brother to Richard & Clarence                          Cy Moore
Duchess of York, mom to Richard, Clarence & Edward       Stephanie Gallas
First Citizen/Messenger                                                   Kendra Gratton
Second Citizen/Messenger                                                    Sarah Stone
Third Citizen/Messenger                                                  Diana Bigelow
Archbishop/Cardinal/Bishop of Ely                                      Jim Stapleton
Young Duke of York, son to Edward & Elizabeth       Theo Spackman-Wells
Elizabeth, daughter to Edward & Elizabeth                            Leila Kiernan
Prince Edward, son and heir to Edward & Elizabeth               Matthew Giles
Lord Mayor                                                                    Richard Wyatt
Sir Richard Ratcliffe, follower of Richard                                   Mark Zelis
Sir James Blunt, follower of Richmond                                   Tom Noble
Henry, Earl of Richmond, later King Henry VII                      Willy McKay

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