Summer 2016’s hottest ticket is a single performance of Henry VI, Part 2—the latest of the CSF’s widely hailed “original practices” productions on one of America’s most iconic outdoor stages. Shakespeare’s razor-sharp exploration of England’s War of the Roses, which also inspired the hit cable series Game of Thrones, drives toward the thrilling conclusion of one of his greatest cycles. All previous “OP” shows sold out months in advance—don’t miss it!
Henry VI finally meets Margaret, the bride he bought by relinquishing the provinces of Maine and Anjou to Reignier. He is overjoyed, but his advisers, who have been running the country for nearly 20 years, question the wisdom of this union. Divisions begin to grow as Margaret allies with Suffolk (who arranged the marriage, and with whom she is in love), the peers grow jealous of Gloucester’s position as Lord Protector, and York gathers supporters before he leaves for Ireland to quell the rebellion there.
Margaret and Suffolk begin to act in Henry’s stead, hearing and dismissing petitioners. Gloucester’s wife, Eleanor, colludes with the witch Margery Jourdain, but her designs on the throne result in her arrest, trial and banishment, and Margery is burned at the stake. Gloucester is then accused of treason and sent to prison. Suffolk, acting on the decisions of the peers, sends two men to murder Gloucester in prison; he is subsequently banished for his role in Gloucester’s death. Margaret vows to bring Suffolk back, but before she can, he is killed at sea by pirates and his head is sent back to her.
Meanwhile, York has put Jack Cade in charge of starting a rebellion of commoners. Cade is at first successful, declaring himself Mayor of London, until Clifford easily wins the populace back. York then returns to England, claiming to return to protect the king from Somerset. The ensuing quarrel leads to York’s declaration of his claim to the throne and the Battle of St. Albans. Somerset is killed by Richard, and Clifford is killed by York. With Henry too overwhelmed to act, Margaret takes charge and the Lancastrians retreat to London, the Yorkists hot on their heels. The first of the Wars of the Roses has been fought…
-Hadley Kamminga-Peck, Dramaturg
Continuing its journey for the third year, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s foray in “original practices” (recreating Shakespearean modes of production) has proved wildly successful. This year’s performance in the historic Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre is sure to deepen our understanding of Shakespearean theater and continue to please its audience.
Many of our audiences are familiar with some of the elements that make up original practices: universal lighting (because the plays were performed in daylight), live onstage music, a more immediate connection with an audience who was engaged with the action, and costuming that reflected contemporary dress. Shakespeare’s company learned lines from cue scripts: Each actor’s script contained only his lines and those immediately preceding them. Actors would receive the script up to three weeks in advance and learn their lines by themselves, while the manager would prepare the promptbook and plan the staging. When the company assembled, they would quickly put the play on its feet in only one or two rehearsals, the actors having already acquired their costumes, and possibly even using pre-staged fights and crowd scenes. The manager also functioned as an onstage prompter, keeping the action moving in any way possible.
While Shakespeare’s company consisted of all male actors, the CSF company does not. We utilize our company of actors, male and female, just as Shakespeare did, using the relationships we have developed over the course of the summer to bring a full Shakespearean play to life in 20 hours of rehearsal.
-Hadley Kamminga-Peck, Dramaturg
Messenger, Roger Bolingbroke, Sir John Stanley, 2nd Murderer, John Holland, Alexander Iden
Duchess of Gloucester, Commoner, Smith the Weaver
Christopher Joel Onken*
King Henry VI
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