Shakespeare Festival begins with ‘Richard III’
Grand Valley State University’s annual Shakespeare Festival kicks off tomorrow with the theater department’s production of “Richard III.”
As one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays, the usually more serious production is a change from the comedies that the theater has put on over the past few years, said director Karen Libman.
“Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s greatest villains,” Libman said. “(He) is just a wonderful person to watch to see what he goes through and what he does.”
Senior Bridgett Vanderhoof portrays Lady Rivers in the play and said GVSU’s performance has been simplified for audiences.
“The show is easy to understand, and also very funny for how dark the events are that take place within it,” Vanderhoof said.
Louis Armstrong Theatre house manager Jack Lane said the story is about Richard III’s quest for the throne and how he needs to remove the legitimate successors.
“It’s really a story about the quest for power and the obstacles he had to remove along the way,” Lane said.
The political power struggle storyline fits perfectly with the current election season, Libman said.
“I think the people are really going to like it,” Libman said. “It is really appropriate for being produced right now because we are in the middle of an election … I think it is going to resonate with the people right now, with the problems in the election and government. Not much has changed in 500 years.”
To relate the play to a more modern crowd, the setting as been taken from past England, to be set “in an inner city Detroit apocalypse kind of thing,” Libman said.
The play is dark; however, Libman assures that the audience will have some laughs, too.
“It is a very funny play,” Libman said. “The way he is dispatching the killing…it is like a tongue and cheek horror movie. It is so outrageous that you have to laugh.” She said a lot of the laughing will be out of an “‘Oh no he didn’t’ kind of way.”Lane added that audiences will enjoy the performance.
Shakespeare continues to be one of the most read English writers and his performances will never be dull, Lane said.
“…The staging and acting for live theatre never grows dull as it is different every performance, and the impact stays with people for a lifetime,” Lane said.
The cast of GVSU students, faculty and staff have worked for over a year to prepare the production, but the performance is not only GVSU students. Libman brought in professional actors to partner with the cast to create a more memorable production.
“The preparation began, actually, way back about a year ago to decide which Shakespeare play to produce, but rehearsals began back in mid-August,” Lane said.
Vanderhoof said working with the professional actors taught her a lot about the field.
“They have shared acting tips, but more importantly they have taught me the level of professionalism and respect that is required in the theatre world,” Vanderhoof said. “(My) favorite part has been working with the equity actor, Brian Russell, and our community actors, Heather Hartnett and Scott Wright.”
Libman said the professional actors worked as real-life advisers for students who want to continue in theater as a career.
“It is a really nice thing because we cast professional actors to play alongside with students, so they are mentors with the students to find out what it is like to be a professional actor…our students and audience get the benefit of the professional actor,” Libman said.
The cast has put a lot of their time into rehearsing for the production – even giving up weekends.
“Weekend rehearsals are never my favorite thing, but they pay off in performance,” Vanderhoof said.
The performances are open to the public and the GVSU community. Along with the regular show times, the theater department will be hosting special performances for several local secondary schools Oct. 2-4 at 10 a.m.
“Richard III” opens tomorrow and runs through Oct. 7. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 and 29, and Oct. 4-6. The three matinees are at 2 p.m. Sept. 30, and Oct. 6 and 7. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, alumni, faculty and staff, and $6 for students.
Following tomorrow night’s opener, the public is invited to a reception that is free and will include a cash bar.
For more information about the production, or other Shakespeare Festival events including a Bard to Go performance, the Renissance faire and a pre-show discussion Sept. 28 at 6:45 p.m., go to www.gvsu.edu/shakes.