Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2023 season to feature blockbuster titles with enduring themes
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF) has announced its program for the 2023 season, running June 11 through Aug. 13. The lineup features some of William Shakespeare’s most timeless and powerful works – “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Winter’s Tale,” “King Lear” and “The Comedy of Errors,” as well as Richard Bean’s “One Man, Two Guvnors.”
According to Producing Artistic Director Tim Orr, the titles for the 2023 season are a collection of some of Shakespeare’s high points as a playwright, a poet and an artist.
“This season is a great celebration of some of Shakespeare’s most enduring works, created when he’s at the height of his career,” Orr said. “In all of these plays, he finds ways to explore family relationships, how kids relate to their parents, how we grow up and how these bonds change over time. These plays explore the themes in different ways – they’re funny, they’re farcical and they’re tragic – but they’re all great achievements.”
Director Kevin Rich will helm the romantic romp “Much Ado About Nothing” in the outdoor Mary Rippon Theatre to kick off the season starting June 11. The tale of the two bickering lovers Beatrice and Benedick is what Orr calls “the perfect play,” as Shakespeare offers his masterful take on the Elizabethan Era version of the romantic comedy. Rich, director of the university’s Applied Shakespeare Certificate program, will bring his extensive on- and off-stage experience to bear in his approach to the beloved piece, setting the romantic hijinks in 1920s Paris.
The outdoor Rippon stage will also host CSF veteran director Carolyn Howarth’s take on “King Lear,” one of Shakespeare’s most profound and piercing tragedies, starting July 8. The drama, rooted in an aging king’s decision to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, will star New York-based actor and playwright Ellen McLaughlin in the title role. McLaughlin’s impressive stage and writing credits include adaptations of ancient Greek drama, a starring role in the first Broadway production of “Angels in America” in 1993 and teaching credits from Yale School of Drama to Princeton University. “We’re so excited to have Ms. McLaughlin for this production,” Orr said. “She’s an important part of American theater.”
The indoor run of the 2023 season will begin on June 24, with director Wendy Franz’s production of “The Winter’s Tale.” Shakespeare weaves in themes of jealousy, bitterness, cruelty and ultimate redemption in this story of a king who accuses his wife of infidelity with no justification. This production offers Franz and the crew the opportunity to explore the play’s themes in a uniquely contemporary way. “There are so many elements of this play that will resonate differently for modern audiences,” Orr said. “This is a great opportunity to explore all of the play’s themes with a fresh and playful approach.”
The other indoor production of the season will be Richard Bean’s comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors” starting its run in the Roe Green Theatre on July 22. According to Orr, who will direct the production, Bean’s tale of a down-on-his-luck musician working for the sister of a notorious mobster and her boyfriend offers audiences a perfect combination of farce, mayhem and belly laughs. “It’s an incredibly funny piece based on Carlo Goldoni’s ‘The Servant of Two Masters,’” Orr said, adding that the show will feature a live band. “It’s about kids, families, parents and growing up.”
Those themes will also find a spot in “The Comedy of Errors,” the Original Practices production for the season running one night only on Aug. 6. In past seasons, this special annual event recreating the theatrical practices of Shakespeare’s time has mostly focused on history plays, dramas and obscure works. The success of a comedy in that framework last year drove the decision to stage one of Shakespeare’s most riotous comedies this year. In “The Comedy of Errors,” two sets of long-lost twins unknowingly meet up in the same town, and hilarity ensues. “Jessica Robblee will actor-manage the production. We are so excited to produce a play in the OP style that a lot of people know and enjoy,” Orr said.
All of these shows will run during a milestone year for the festival. After a year of extensive renovation, CSF’s indoor venue, formerly known as the University Theatre, will reopen this season as the Roe Green Theatre. Patrons will enjoy upgraded acoustics and an improved climate control system.
Also beginning in 2024, the university will begin a large-scale renovation of the Hellems buildings surrounding the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre. While the festival will continue in the indoor theatre during construction in 2024, this summer is the last chance to enjoy the outdoor venue in its present configuration.
“After this summer, this current version of the Rippon will only live in our memories. We really wanted to make it a celebration of the most towering works of Shakespeare,” Orr said. “Come on the journey with us. Join the company. There’s a thrill in the experience of buying season tickets and seeing the same actors play completely different parts; seeing the same group navigate a comedy like ‘Much Ado,’ and the next night tackle the tragedy in ‘King Lear.’”
Season tickets for CSF’s 2023 lineup will go on sale Monday, Oct. 31 at coloradoshakes.org. Single tickets will go on sale Monday, Nov. 28.