richard II

adapted from the play by william shakespeare

king richard ii
christian emmerson (mfa candidate)
queen isabel
leeann zahrt
john of gaunt
peter w. thomson

henry bolingbroke

edward spencer
duchess of gloucester
rosamund wehner
duke of york
alan smith
duke of aumerle
tim macavoy
thomas mowbray
jamie davies
pekka mehtala
juliet jones
catherine kilgour
ben harrison

directed and adapted by christopher clark (mfa candidate)
stage manager
sally russell
technical managers
jon primrose, chris mearing
fight choreographers
jamie davies, abby stobart
anthea nakorn
art design
lisa valentine clark


special thanks to: christopher mccullough, lesley wade soule, peter thomson, john somers, christopher main, Gayatri Simons, graham gridland, carol rowlinson, sherri quaid, kelley hughes, hannah pearmain, marcus gregio, pekka mehtala, chet baker, miles & owen, john wehner, mattie cooper, imogen whener, rita thomson, diane smith, kate spoor, catherine's cuddly kitten, and the friendly staff of the imperial free house. "blackbird' lyrics and music by john lennon and paul mccartney 'simple' lyrics and music by k.d.lang and david piltch

King Richard II has been on the throne since age seven. Now, at age 29, he has developed into a King prone to flattery and self-deception. Unpopular with his subjects, his realm is rife with anti-Ricardian factions and breakouts of Irish rebels. Richard's uncle Gloucester is particularly unsupportive of the King.

The play begins and ends with a murder. The first murder, the brief assassination of Gloucester - at Richard's behest - by Thomas Mowbray, sets off the action of the rest of the play. Gloucester's death leaves behind several things: a kingdom without any vocal opponents, a court full of instability and mistrust, and a widow who vows revenge. Richard's first cousin Henry Bolingbroke boldly and correctly accuses Mowbray of the assasination of Gloucester, to which Richard responds by banishing both men from the realm. This rids him of two problems: Mowbray is no longer available to reveal Richard's hand in the plot, and the popular Henry Bolingbroke is no longer available to continue his winning streak in the hearts of the people. What Richard does not count on, however, is the immediate return of both men: Bolingbroke with an army to depose the King, and Mowbray in several disguises intended to disburse Richard's army and revenge his mistreatment. Along the way we meet Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt, who understands the fragility of power and foresees the fall of the King. His words echo throughout the play. The Duke of York, Gaunt's brother and Richard's uncle, aligns himself with whomever holds the political upper hand. His son Aumerle, Richard's only faithful supporter, demonstrates his willingness to remain loyal to the King at any cost. And Richard's Queen, kept from any pertinent information, is forced to rely on the gossip of gardeners and her own intuition.

Written around 1595, Richard II has long been seen as a political treatise, particularly in an Elizabethan light. The infamous performance of 7 February 1601, when supporters of the Earl of Essex staged the play as a revolt against Queen Elizabeth, is a notorious example of the power of Shakespeare's suggestion. This play, the birthplace of the Wars of the Roses, takes us beyond action and consequence to a place most of us are uncomfortable to acknowledge: the place where we must decide when, how, and whether to forgive.

In adapting this play I was less concerned with political machinations as I was in the individuals behind them. In fact, I have contended all along that this play is a love story. Certainly not in the traditional sense; no one emotes from a balcony, no one swims the Hellespont, no old ladies drop diamonds off ships, but in a more realistic sense. This is a play, immaculately worded, about relationships. A play which asks several questions about the family, the career, and the question of moral character. A true love story, where characters take each other for granted until it's too late, a song or a kind word have ultimate meaning, and banishment from a parent hurts worse than banishment from a country.

In that same light, I would like to briefly thank my incredible partner and wife Lisa and my little boys Miles and Owen, who dropped everything and moved to England so Dad could study Shakespeare. They have taught me more about love, kindness, and forgiveness than any play ever could.

christopher clark

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