Ohio Shakespeare Festival to begin its 13th summer of the Bard of Avon’s classics

Arts / Article

Ohio Shakespeare Festival, a Knight Arts grantee, shows clearly that the Renaissance poetic feat of the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, is not only accessible for audiences some 500 years later, but utterly enjoyable to watch.

In his comedies, Shakespeare can be a hoot, especially the way he depicts what are called “low” characters. And in the history and dramatic plays, the ever-enduring playwright can wax eloquent. Ohio Shakespeare Festival will no doubt show us just how true all that is when they present two works in the beautiful outdoor stage near the lagoon in Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens this summer – the delightful romantic comedy about unrequited love, “Twelfth Night,” and the fascinating and popular story of worthiness, “Henry IV, Part One.”

“Twelfth Night” will preview on July 3 with a full opening on July 4 and will run through July 20. “Henry IV, Part One” will preview on July 31, open August 1, and run through August 17. Performances are Thursday-Sunday nights at 8 p.m. A Greenshow of songs, dances, swordfights and parodies will be performed by the younger Company members each evening at 7:30 p.m.  Stan Hywet’s grounds open at 6 p.m. for picnicking in a wide variety of scenic locations, and concessions are available, including sandwiches, snacks, wines and microbrews.

“Twelfth Night” is a comedy based on mistaken identities – and who are mistaken for each other. Viola and her brother Sebastian live through a shipwreck but are separated and believe the other is dead or lost. To survive, Viola dresses as a boy (and thereby looks like her brother even more). The character Olivia falls for her (thinking she’s a he), while Sebastian falls for Olivia. You can see the complications coming – and the fun.

Scene from “Twelfth Night,” Ohio Shakespeare Festival.

“Twelfth Night,” company representatives say, will feature OSF player Lara Knox (who has done the Shakespearean roles of Kate and Ophelia) as Olivia, and Anand Nagraj as Orsino, along with Tess Burgler (who has played both Imogen and Juliet) as Viola, the unintended love interest to them both. Also returning to the company will be Joe Pine as Feste, Geoff Knox as Malvolio, Derrick Winger as Sir Toby Belch, and Holly Humes as Maria.

“Henry IV, Part One” is part of OSF’s new two-year project producing some of Shakespeare’s overlooked, and yet thrilling dramatizations of history, as the organization has reported. The story is essentially three tales in one that come together at the end – Henry’s right to sit on the throne as he battles other nobles in the land; his son, Prince Hal, who needs to let go of his debauchery long enough to prove his royal worth by defending his father and king; and the clownish Falstaff, who is disreputable, to say the least, but finds a way to reform his bad ways by play’s end.

Terry Burgler as Falstaff in "Henry IV, Part One," Ohio Shakespeare Festival.

Terry Burgler as Falstaff in “Henry IV, Part One,” Ohio Shakespeare Festival.

OSF company member Andrew Cruse (who has done the Shakespearean roles of Hamlet and Romeo) will play Prince Hal – and next year is scheduled to continue on the role in “Henry V.” Joining Cruse are artistic director Terry Burgler (who has done the roles of Lear and Iago) as Sir John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comic characters. Actor Joe Pine will play Hotspur, and David McNees will take the role of the play’s namesake (but rather background) character, Henry IV.

In order to make Shakespeare accessible to all audiences, OSF is offering two evenings with ticketing supported by both the Corbin Foundation and the Akron Community Foundation. “Twelfth Night” will have a pay-what-you-will performance on Thursday, July 10, and “Henry IV, Part One” will have a performance free for all students (with ID) on Thursday, August 7.

Ohio Shakespeare Festival will hold its performances on its stage near the lagoon in Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, 714 N. Portage Path., Akron; 330-673-8761; www.ohioshakespeare.com. Tickets are $30 for reserved seating ($25 for open seating).