Richard III Shakespeare in the Park stars Danai Gurira at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, June 21 – July 17, 2022. Free. publictheater.org 🇿🇼🇺🇸
This is the first play of Free Shakespeare in the Park’s 60th anniversary season.
Why Richard III Now?
The Public Theater’s selection of plays at Free Shakespeare in the Park always speaks volumes about current events.
The real Richard III of England is known for his brilliant manipulation of words. He gained his throne through dishonest political scandal. His legacy is disputed, but Richard is widely considered to have been a ruthless tyrant, in the Machiavellian model, who would do anything to take and hold power (like disrupting the normal transfer of power, or maybe shooting people on Fifth Avenue, wink, wink).
When King Edward IV died in 1483, Richard III was named “Lord Protector” of the boy who would rightfully be king, and the boy’s younger brother. Instead of doing his job, Richard III engineered a religious declaration that the boys were illegitimate, and took the crown for himself. Eventually, the boys just disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to them.
Richard III’s death marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. Interestingly, his skeleton was found in 2012.
Shakespeare’s “Richard III”
Richard III is perhaps best remembered today from Shakespeare’s tragedy which was written around 1592-1594. Shakespeare is considered to have exaggerated Richard III’s badness, but generally got it right.
As many historians suspect, the playwright blames the murder of the rightful heirs to the throne, on Richard. Seeking to gain some legitimacy, Richard set his sights on marrying Edward IV’s next remaining heir, Elizabeth of York. Her mother objects, so Richard has her poisoned.
All the political violence keeps the royal court on edge. Richard becomes increasingly paranoid and is haunted by the ghosts of those he has unjustly murdered. Fighting rebellions, Richard is killed in battle by Henry, Earl of Richmond, who becomes King Henry VII.
Richard III was one Bad dude.
Richard III Shakespeare In the Park
Long time Public Theater director, playwright and Tony nominee Robert O’Hara (“Slave Play) directs.
Danai Gurira (Okoye in the “Black Panther” and “Avengers” movies) stars in the title role. She is a respected actress who is also a Tony (“Eclipsed”) and Pulitzer (“In the Continuum”) nominated playwright.
Gurira is an American with a Zimbabwean heritage who was raised in Zimbabwe during her childhood and teen years. She has a Masters in Fine Arts from NYU Tisch, and speaks English, French, Shona and Xhosa. Gurira has won many awards including: Screen Actors Guild, People’s Choice, Drama Desk, Helen Hayes and Obie awards. Instagram @danaigurira
“Richard III” is a heavy play performed at the Delacorte by some heavy hitters. But the Public Theater always manages to turn seriousness into fun. Go see the play and tell us how you think it relates to what’s happening in America right now.