Mad world! Mad kings! Mad composition!
For one night only, see one of Shakespeare’s rarest history plays just as his own audiences did as part of CSF’s revered Original Practices event. In "King John," England and France battle for the throne following the death of King Richard the Lionheart.
Since 1958, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has delighted audiences with professional theatre on the CU Boulder campus. Complete your Colorado summer with Shakespeare under the stars in the historic Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre—complimentary seatbacks included.
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Performance date and time:
Sunday, Aug. 4, 6:30 p.m. SOLD OUT
This event is sold out, please join our waitlist.
More about the show:Read more
After the death of King Richard I, his youngest brother John takes the throne, but the French support John’s nephew Arthur’s claim to the throne. John and his mother Eleanor are asked to settle an inheritance dispute between brothers Robert and Philip Faulconbridge. Philip is recognized as the bastard son of the late King Richard and is knighted as Sir Richard Plantagenet.
The conflict over England’s throne intensifies. Austria declares support for young Arthur, joining the French and Arthur’s mother Constance. War is averted by a marriage between John’s niece Blanche and the French dauphin Lewis, though Constance is enraged by the French betrayal. Cardinal Pandulph, an emissary from the Pope, demands that John recognize the Pope’s choice for Archbishop of Canterbury. John refuses and is excommunicated. Under pressure from Rome, King Philip of France abandons the new peace with England. Pandulph persuades Lewis that he can claim the English throne through his wife Blanche. John sends the captured Arthur back to England and orders Hubert to kill the young prince. English Earls Pembroke and Salisbury plead with John for Arthur’s freedom, and John agrees just as Hubert announces Arthur’s death. The French army arrives; Eleanor and Constance have both died in France; and rumours and fear abound throughout England. Arthur, having been secretly spared by Hubert, leaps to his death from a high prison wall.
John reconciles with Rome, but the French advance continues and English nobles defect to the enemy. Philip the Bastard shames English traitors as John falls ill, having been poisoned. A dying French lord warns Salisbury and Pembroke that Lewis will execute them once he secures victory over the English. They return to England, asking John’s forgiveness and bringing his son Prince Henry to his bedside. John pardons them on his deathbed, Pandulph negotiates peace with France and King Henry III is crowned upon John’s death.
—Heidi Schmidt, Dramaturg
It’s been a pleasure serving as “actor-manager” of CSF’s Original Practices production for a second year. In Shakespeare’s day, productions were not led by a director in the way they are today; actors came together knowing only their own lines to collectively stage the play in a very short amount of time. Theatre is a collaborative art form in general, but these rehearsal practices take it to another level. What you’ll be seeing today is truly the product of a team.
Leadership is an interesting lens through which to examine each of the plays in CSF’s season. Shakespeare’s deep interest in this topic is evident in the wide variety of leadership styles he portrays in his works. Some leaders put matters of the heart over matters of the state; others view empathy as a weakness. Some su er under the weight of the crown; others are made more hungry by it. Some prioritize individual rights; others put God or country first. Throughout the canon, Shakespeare is holding the question: What makes a leader good?
Shakespeare’s King John is a strong example of this line of questioning, asking us to consider the attributes, values and priorities of many leaders (or would-be leaders) vying for power. It’s a play that is seldom produced, but at this moment, as our nation gears up to once again elect its leaders, this deeply political story—of power, greed, shifting loyalties, lapses in judgement and the painful consequences of the failure to compromise—feels quite relevant indeed.
—Kevin Rich, Actor-Manager
Director/Philip the Bastard
Emily Van Fleet*
Queen Eleanor/Executioner 1/Messenger
Isobel Rosie Makin
Robert Faulconbridge/King Philip of France/Melun
Lewis of France
Blanche/Executioner 2/Messenger/Prince Henry
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