Check out our interview with actor Rutherford Cravens.
Last year, Main Street Theater's Executive Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden saw actor/director Guy Roberts' production of As You Like It "and I just thought it was terrific. I loved the inventiveness of it and I thought he did such a wonderful job with the cast and the imagination and the humor and I just thought I'd love to work with this person."
So she asked the director of the Prague Shakespeare Festival, who also works in Houston (he recently had a lead role in Coast of Utopia), to give her a couple of titles for the next year. She picked Richard III because it has been produced the least locally "and the title that people might be most excited about viewing." And that production opens tonight at MST's Chelsea location with Roberts in the title role, Rutherford Cravens playing a trio of characters and Udden herself playing royalty.
"He [Roberts] asked me if I'd like to play the Queen Margaret role. It's a role I've wanted to do my whole life, now that I'm old enough to do it" she said, laughing.
Her character is "often described as mad but she's been made a little bit crazy by her grief and her rage and her feeling of powerlessness. She used to run the country, now she's been turned loose to just wander the corridors. She's practically a bag lady. She's gone from queen to nobody," Udden said.
The most important thing about performing Shakespeare, she said, is to be sure the actors are speaking clearly and that costumes and other visual prompts help the audience decipher what's going on -- especially if they're not completely up to date on their War of the Roses history. "And in Richard III, everybody's named wither Edward or Richard or Henry; everybody's got the same five names."
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To help in this production, video has been added "to give people a little more sense of the relationships," she said. And Roberts has streamlined the script to make it more accessible, she added. "There's still a lot of people in the play; a lot of doubling. But he has cut the number of actual people you have to keep track of down considerably and combined some roles."
After they finish their run here, most of the cast will be traveling to Prague to perform there, she said. Udden said she hopes the Tom Stoppard trilogy Coast of Utopia that they mounted, has put Main Street on more people's radar. I think the people who took the time to come to Coast of Utopia are likely to be interested in Richard III as well," she said.
Shakespeare's plays are worth doing "because he's just got so much to say; it just keeps resonating," Udden said."He uses great language. He's talking about power. It's a very cynical play about people in power and how people get in power and what they do when they get there. It's a great cautionary tale."
Performances of Richard III are scheduled for Main Street Theater, Chelsea Market location, 4617 Montrose Blvd from April 26 to May 13. For tickets, go to the theater's website or call 713-524-6706 . Tickets are $26 and up with student discounts.