Comedy of Errors With a Texas Twang: Cindy Pickett and Mark Metcalf Join the Houston Shakespeare Festival

Actress Cindy Pickett (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, St. Elsewhere) grew up in the Houston heat. She was no stranger to theater, given that her father the late Cecil Pickett was so involved with it.

So she didn't hesitate to agree to join this year's Houston Shakespeare Festival, sponsored by the University of Houston's School of Theatre & Dance when she was back in town for a recent tribute to her father, a longtime UH professor.

But now, as she and actor Mark Metcalf (Maestro on Seinfeld, villainous Douglas Neidermeyer in Animal House) prepare to take to the stage, alternating Comedy of Errors -- the cast in a Texas accent no less -- and Hamlet (to be done more traditionally), both are thinking about the summer heat and the clothes they'll be wearing at Miller Outdoor Theatre.

"We'll be all right if we don't pass out," she says.

Pickett hasn't done Shakespeare recently, but says she has always loved it. "There's something about the poetry of Shakespeare that I have always enjoyed. I fell in love with it."

Metcalf, who'll play Claudius to Pickett's Gertrude (Aegeon and the Abbess in Comedy of Errors), got involved after another actor dropped out of the festival a month before the start date. "This is the fourth Hamlet I've done," he said. "I wanted to take one more crack at Claudius."

He'd never done Comedy of Errors. "I'd go just about anywhere and do about anything to do Shakespeare."

They'll be joined by young actors, many of them from UH's theater program, all of them negotiating the lines written in iambic pentameter.

Asked who they thought would come to the festival, Metcalf deadpanned: "Seven thousand of the best and the brightest that Houston has to offer."

"The comedy will be such a great thing for kids, the audience will just love it," Pickett said. "And it takes place in Texas. We have Texas accents. Doing Shakespeare with Texas accents. That kind of threw me off for a while, but you just do it."

"And it works," Metcalf broke in.

"It does," Pickett agreed.

All Houston Shakespeare Festival performances begin at 8:30 p.m. Hamlet: August 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11. Comedy of Errors: August 4, 8, 10, 12. For information, visit the theater's Web site. Free.

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