Parkland Press

Monday, December 9, 2019

Going inside at Pa. Shakespeare Fest

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 by The Press in Focus

Theater creates the opportunity to live twice. If you are hooked on "Downton Abbey," perhaps part of the attraction is going inside: a beautiful castle, beautiful yet complicated and fragile lives, and a mesmerizing world from another time that is otherwise unavailable to us.

At the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival (PSF), you can live many lives: yours and the life of a famous English King, a novice nun in Vienna, an Oklahoma cowhand, a Victorian matriarch, a spy novel hero on the run, all in the same summer season.

Shakespeare's plays and other world classics invite us in, too; inside ourselves, and into a world of ideas that fascinates, a kaleidoscopic humanity that makes room for us. When we go in search of penetrating insights translated into poignant and elevating experiences, Shakespeare is our man and his canon has even more rooms than Downton.

This season brings the rare opportunity to see two more of Shakespeare's captivating works, "Henry VIII" and "Measure for Measure," in which rival thirsts for power and belonging become spellbindingly entwined.

The famous quote from "Measure for Measure" is "Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful." Should a novice nun sacrifice her virtue to save her brother's life when a strict authority figure discovers that he too is prone to moral weakness?

In "Henry VIII," a man known best for weddings and beheadings maneuvers through the political landscape of Tudor England, hastening the rise and fall of cardinals and queens. The play is an extravaganza and gives us a chance to imagine what it must have been like to stand squarely at the crossroads of the divine right of kings and the primacy of Rome.

"Oklahoma!" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" provide pure delight and refreshing escape to entrancing environs, while the quick-change comedy, "The 39 Steps," has laff-riot imaginative fun with genres known for taking themselves fairly seriously: spy novels and Hitchcock films.

Another opportunity to "go inside" at PSF: the chance to see industry leading artists at work, to join them in the same room. In recent seasons, our company of artists has included artists from Broadway, television and film, national tours and regional theater, some of them winners and nominees of the Tony, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk, Helen Hayes (D.C.), Barrymore (Philadelphia) and Jefferson (Chicago) awards. In other words, these are artists that the industry has determined to be the best of the best.

This summer you can see Steve Burns of "Blues Clues" fame in "The 39 Steps"; Alexie Gilmore, who starred opposite Robin Williams and Matthew McConaughey in feature films, in "The Importance of Being Earnest"; Zach Robidas, who played Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon's son in "Arbitrage," in "Measure for Measure," and Christine Negherbon, who has been in national tours produced by Cameron Macintosh and starring Ann-Margret, as Laurey in "Oklahoma!"

We invite you to spend your time with these wonderful artists and with Shakespeare, Wilde, Hitchcock, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. We invite you to "ascend the brightest heaven of invention" with family and friends this summer at PSF. A season of life memories awaits you here: inside.

Patrick Mulcahy is Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Producing Artistic Director. This is the second of the three-part "Behind the Scenes" at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Part Three: Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Producing Managing Director Casey William Gallagher.