2019 Festival


Merry Wives of WIndsor                    



It’s such a great story; you want it to be true:  After seeing a production of Henry IV pt. 2, Queen Elizabeth, fresh off a big win against the second Spanish Armada, invites William Shakespeare to the castle and asks him to write a play starring her favorite character – Falstaff.  “Only this time”, the queen says to her number one playwright, “he’s got to fall in love”.  And thus, Merry Wives of Windsor was born. But it’s probably not true. Sure, the timing works out, there are a few early biographers that swore it happened, and of course there was Shakespeare In Love, but modern scholars have their doubts that the Queen ever gave writing notes to the Bard. For our purposes tonight the origins of the play don’t matter, but here’s what does:  You won’t find any royalty in the script; no princes, queens, kings, or duchesses.  This unique quirk has led scholars to call this Shakespeare’s “blue collar comedy,” kind of an Elizabethan Roseanne. Audiences might also notice that there’s far more prose than verse in the script.  But for me, what makes the play a treat to watch are all the interwoven plots of deception; everyone is either fooling someone, being fooled themselves, or a little of both. So welcome to Kingsmen’s 23rdseason. “I hope good luck”, as Falstaff says, “lies in odd numbers”.



Richard II was one of Shakespeare’s early successes. Written in 1595, its quarto publication sold out, resulting in two subsequent printings. The Elizabethans had a fascination with the story of the “bad” King, Richard. Richard’s belief in his own divine right of monarchy and his arbitrary and often vindictive actions led to his being deposed. In the late 16thC. there was a similar questioning of the extraordinary powers wielded by Queen Elizabeth I. A performance of the play commissioned prior to an attempted coup against the queen even raised questions about the play being anti-monarchy. Then, as now, political divisions, were drawn in the extremes: those out of power desperate to gain it; those in power struggling to maintain it. This production is presented more as an allegory rather than an historical representation. As with recent popular film and television depictions of medieval-type imaginary worlds, we are using the story of Richard Plantagenet to present a story of power going astray. The story is set in a world that may in some ways be similar to late 14thC England but is not. In 14thC. England, women had little power except through their married alliances. In Kingsmen’s imagined world of Richard II, women are presented in all aspects of society, as royal leaders, as soldiers, as advisors, as wives, as widows, as mothers, and as servants. They are often dismissed, ordered about, obeyed, loved. They are angry, vindictive, suffering, powerful, noble, loyal, human. In Shakespeare’s world, women were not allowed to perform on stage. As a result, in his plays, the number of women’s roles are far fewer than men’s roles. Were he writing today, I don’t think that would be the case. Similarly, because Kingsmen is producing plays in 2019, we are committed to try to provide more opportunities for women on stage and behind the scenes. Ultimately, I find Richard II  a compelling, beautifully poetic work that I hope you will find entertaining, thought-provoking, and moving.






Richard II