Why was this particular play chosen for the Prague Shakespeare Festival?
I fervently believe that Shakespeare is our theatrical DNA and that there is a reason his texts still reverberate today. These timeless stories are universal in theme, speaking directly to the human condition around the world, through all ages. Over four hundred years since their premiere, Shakespeare´s plays continue to inspire and entertain in theatres throughout the world, in every language in which any kind of theatrical performance is given. Shakespeare´s work offers a dramatic richness unequaled in any other age or epoch; it is theatre where the ritualistic and the comic, the high-brow and the low-brow, the lyrical and the bawdy, all meet and intermingle with the complexity of life. Shakespeare´s words constantly remind us of our own humanity and through his texts we can better understand our own modern experiences, anxieties, and sensibilities. Presenting As You Like It and King Lear in rotating repertory broadens the context of our work as the plays complement each other, allowing us to develop a versatile company of actors, designers and artisans; creating opportunities for interaction between the European and American theatre artists to create a unique body of comparative work within one season. Both plays deal with the challenges of civilized (courtly) life versus man´s natural instincts as revealed in the wilderness of Nature. In As You Like It, Rosalind finds her voice, her authenticity as a human and love in the Forest of Arden. Lear likewise discovers his humanity only when he is cast out into the storm-into the natural world. For Shakespeare, and in both of these plays, love is a madness that drives people to do extraordinary things. It is a disease that brings ultimate sorrow (as in King Lear) or ultimate happiness (as in As You Like It). Sparkling with wit, As You Like It, one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved and vibrant comedies, is flavored with all the longing and pain of everyone’s first big romance. Uplifting, awe-inspiring, filled with great original music by Ed Kliman and immensely fun, Shakespeare’s wondrous comedy is a celebration of the liberating power of love and the redeeming spirit of nature. King Lear is widly acknowledged as Shakespeare´s greatest tragedy and one of the greatest English-language plays ever written. Lear is a towering exploration of a world in which everything is in domestic, spiritual and political upheaval. The play brings to the forefront questions on the nature of: love and duty, power and loss, old age and youth, good and evil. King Lear is as resonant today as it was in 1606 when first performed and will remain so hundreds of years from now.
What spin will be put on it (contemporary/progressive)?
To present the widest possible experience of the plays, As You Like It is presented in a non-traditionally with all of the actors on stage the entire time changing costumes and transforming into different characters in full view of the audience and King Lear is presented in a more traditionally, complete with Elizabethan and Tudoresque inspired costumes
What can audiences expect?
These productions offer great variety to audiences: audiences have the experience of a “company” and not just a play. Presenting both of these plays in rotating repertory provides audiences and artists an opportunity to deepen their understanding of these richly nuanced texts that have captivated us for over 400 years. Audiences can expect a strong focus on the language – this will be two Shakespeare plays people actually understand! Both productions smash away any kind of fourth wall where the audience and actors exist independently of each other. Staying true to Shakespeare´s original intent, our actors speak to and interact with the audience just as Shakespeare´s actors would have done 400 years ago at the Globe. Above all audiences can experience two of Shakespeare´s greatest plays presented by a terrific acting ensemble featuring professional American theatre artists Rutherford Cravens as King Lear, Tom Prior, Philip Hays, Ilich Guardiola, Jared Tettey, Bob Boudreaux and Jessica Boone Regan in King Lear and as As You Like It´s leading Lady – Rosalind. The acting ensemble is led on the European side by one of the biggest stars in the Czech Republic – a man who has been called the Czech Tom Hanks – Pavel Kříž appearing as Jaques in As You Like It and the Fool in King Lear. Pavel is joined by Prague favorites Amy Huck, Laura Baranik, Lenka Fisherova, David Fisher, Vanessa Gendron and Jeff Smith.
Anything else you feel should be mentioned?
This unique collaboration creates a model for future international collaborations and provides a diverse, singular experience for artists and audiences alike—something that could not be experienced anywhere in the United States or the Czech Republic through one company´s work alone. This project has the added advantage of exposing European artists and audiences to the very best of American theatre practices and exposing American artists and audiences to the rich artistic traditions and cultural sensibilities of artists who present Shakespeare typically in their native tongues; in non-English language productions.