Last year, Rutherford Cravens, who's been on screen in RoboCop 2, Friday Night Lights, Ray and most recently No Country for Old Men, went to Prague in King Lear, where he says the city is filled with culture and the audience is "delightful."
"The bar is open all through the show and the first word you learn in Czech is pivo, which is beer. They're out there drinking beer and eating sausage and they're great," Cravens said. So that was a major factor in deciding to take a role (well, several) in the upcoming Main Street Theater co-production of Richard III. Because when they're done in Houston, most of the company is going over to the Prague Shakespeare Festival to perform there.
The other reason Cravens is extra excited to be playing Lord Hastings/Murderer #2/Blunt in Richard III is because his daughter, Sarah Jane Cravens, 13, has been cast as Prince Edward, one of the two children in the show.
"That was the role she wanted because he comes back as a ghost," said Cravens, who's also involved in the Houston Shakespeare Festival.
MST Executive Artistic Director Rebecca Greene Udden is taking a turn onstage as Queen Margaret. And Guy Roberts, seen to such good effect recently as Michael Bakunin in Tom Stoppard's Coast of Utopia trilogy at Main Street, is directing and playing the title role of the last king of the House of York -- and yes, there is still much debate among scholars about whether he killed his young nephews.
Talking about Roberts's performance, Craves said: "Guy's going to be an extraordinary; he's digging deep into his inner creep."
While it may not offer sausages and beer during its live performances, Main Street does have "an extraordinarily literate and loyal audience," says Cravens, who recently appeared in part of the Tom Stoppard trilogy Coast of Utopia at Main Street, playing the father in Voyage.
"In Richard I'll be doing multiple roles. I love the second murderer; it's a great role and Hastings is wonderful," Cravens said.
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"I've done some work in film and television. It's a wonderful paid vacation when I do it. I'm kind of old school, I really like theater," Cravens said. "In theater, ultimately the actor is in control. In film and television, the actor ultimately has no control of the final product. I just enjoy theater more."
When asked how he responds when kids say they don't like Shakespeare, Cravens, who has taught in the past, said: "Kids are always introduced to Shakespeare by reading it and it's like giving a kid a Mozart cantata, the sheet music, and saying, 'Isn't this beautiful?' It's not meant to be read; it's meant to be seen and once they see it, they lose all their 'shakesfear.' Shakespeare is the most entertaining of our playwrights if it's done well, and this will be done well."
"I love Shakespeare. The reason he's still done 400 years after his death is because it's the best theater. The reason Romeo and Juliet is being done all the time somewhere in the world is because it's the best play ever written about how it feels to be 14 years old. And King Lear is the best play ever written about what it feels like to be old. And Richard III is the best play ever written about what it's like to be a cruel man with a humpback."
Performances of Richard III are scheduled for Main Street Theater, Chelsea Market location, from April 26 to May 13. For tickets, go to www.mainstreettheater.com or call 713-524-6706 . Tickets are $26 and up with student discounts.