Richard II Poor Shadows of Elysium Written by William Shakespeare Directed by Christina Gutierrez Stage Management by Emily Toothman Set Design by Bridget Farias Costume Design by Cherrie Weed Lighting Design by Kevin Gates Dramaturgy by Joe Stephenson Photo Credits: Shawn McHorse
For this production of Richard II for the Austin, Texas-based Poor Shadows of Elysium company, I cast two actors to each play Richard II and Henry Bolingbrooke, the two leads of the play. Over the course of the narrative, Bolingbrooke deposes Richard and becomes King Henry IV. In its original context, Richard II was a play about the anxieties of unstable kingship. Four our Texas audiences, I wanted to make that anxiety and uncertainty real. Before each performance, we tossed a coin to see which actor played which character. The actors were then given mere seconds to transition into character before the play proper began. The device served to make the medieval monarchical theory that the play relies on vibrant and immediate fro twenty-first century audiences. The production was staged on a replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Austin, Texas. Richard II was the first of three productions of Shakespeare's history plays that form the backbone of my explorations of casting and performance in my book project, Like a King: Casting Shakespeare's Histories for Citizens and Subjects. The production is also discussed in my article, "'Our Lives and All are Bollingbrooke's:" Alternated Double Casting in Richard II, published in Theatre Topics Vol. 25. No. 2 (2015).