The Public Theater preserves New York’s Free Shakespeare in the Park tradition by serializing Shakespeare’s “Richard II” on WNYC 93.9 FM, AM 820 and WNYC.org, in four parts Monday-Thursday, July 13-16, 2020 at 8pm. After the radio series, “Richard II” will be available as a podcast.
“A ruler, legitimate by the law of the land, begins to not only break the law, but violate the norms and traditions that make a nation function. What is to be done? A country is torn by the upheavals that follow injustice. What could this possibly have to do with America in 2020? Shakespeare’s masterpiece is both a political and a psychological exploration. Filled with some of his most beautiful and profound poetry, spoken by a superb cast of New York actors under the inspired direction of Saheem Ali, this gorgeous radio version will entertain, excite, move, and educate,” said Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis.
This “Richard II” production was originally planned to run at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park this summer. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Public Theater to reimagine the production.
The Public Theater dedicates this production to Black Lives Matter. Thank you Public Theater.
The Richard II Cast
Kenyan-American director Saheem Ali directs.
The ensemble cast is mostly people of color. Now we are called BIPOCs (Black Indigenous People of Color). Well at least people can understand that Africans freed themselves from enslavement by running into the hills where we mixed with the Indigenous people living there. We were raped so we have European blood too. The very definition of Latin in the Americas is Indigenous + European + African. And in the Caribbean we are Asian too. In New York we mixed with English and Dutch, so our world includes everybody.
The complete cast of “Richard II” features:
- Barzin Akhavan (Salisbury/Marshall)
- Sean Carvajal (Gardener’s Man/Surrey)
- Michael Bradley Cohen (Bushy)
- Sanjit De Silva (Mowbray/Exton)
- Biko Eisen-Martin (Fitzwater)
- Michael Gaston (Northumberland)
- Stephen McKinley Henderson (Gardener)
- André Holland (King Richard II)
- Miriam A. Hyman (Bolingbroke)
- Merritt Janson (Scroop)
- Elijah Jones (Hotspur)
- Dakin Matthews (Gaunt)
- Jacob Ming-Trent (Carlisle)
- Maria Mukuka (Queen’s Lady/Servant)
- Okwui Okpokwasili (Willoughby/Abbot)
- Estelle Parsons (Duchess of York)
- Tom Pecinka (Aumerle)
- Phylicia Rashad (Duchess of Gloucester)
- Reza Salazar (Welsh Captain)
- Thom Sesma (Ross/Keeper)
- Sathya Sridharan (Bagot)
- John Douglas Thompson (York)
- Claire van der Boom (Queen)
- Natalie Woolams-Torres (Green)
- Ja’Siah Young (Groom)
Historic Richard II
Richard II was King of England from 1377 to 1399. The end of his reign grew chaotic from what his peers called “insanity” and what we would now likely call a debilitating personality disorder. King Richard II was known for having fits of rage, calling his enemies traitors and swearing on vengeance.
The sick king’s misrule caused a long period of civil unrest that lasted almost a hundred years.
Does any of this sound familiar? In the end, Parliament deposed the sick man. They locked him up!
The particulars of his death are uncertain, but it is believed that he starved to death in a castle prison. Wait there’s more.
Richard II’s death was followed by conspiracy theories that he was still alive. A mentally ill beggar claimed to be Richard II and was even given a king’s burial. Richard II lives! I think I saw him in Washington, D.C. LOL.
The Public Theater doesn’t just produce world-class theatre, it curates Shakespeare to make you think about the big issues of the day. That’s what great art should do.
Our sick would-be-king, will probably cry that Shakespeare was out to get him in a conspiracy with Democrats. We could call it ShakespeareGate.
If Fox News runs the story, about 40 % of Americans of the U.S. will believe it to be absolutely true, but sad. Hint: William Shakespeare died in 1616.
Maybe we should check his death certificate because if he’s still alive, that certificate must be fake news. King Richard, we demand that you produce your death certificate.
We’re kidding (life imitates art).
Shakespeare’s “Richard II”
William Shakespeare is believed to have written “The Life and Death of King Richard the Second” around 1595. He based the story on the real English king, but like a Netflix telenovela, it’s only about half true.
In Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” the sick king’s own arbitrary and nonsensical decisions make him seem guilty of criminal wrongdoing. Among other things, he is accused of misusing public money, tax crimes and murder.
Perhaps the thesis of Colombian Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez, that history repeats itself is true.
PS: Is this Latin? No, but we share a common root in Greek theatre, and Spanish Golden Age Theatre was so universally popular that it even influenced theatre in England.