Manipulative and vicious, Shakespeare’s “Richard III” stops at nothing to seize power and the throne — marrying the widow of a prince he murdered, killing his wife, executing his older brother and ordering the deaths of his young nephews. Director and lead actor Lisa Wolpe promises a swift, passionate performance about politics and power – and really crazy people.
“It will be a fast, vicious, murderous journey,” Wolpe says. “I hope it will retain a good deal of Shakespeare’s gleeful poetry as we hurtle along with Richard on his psychotic vision of world domination.”
The seventh season of the Southern California Shakespeare Festival at Cal Poly Pomona brings together 14 student actors and five professionals from the Actors’ Equity Association for the two-hour performance. Opening night and the gala reception is Saturday, Sept. 10 at 8 p.m.
Theatre Professor and festival Artistic Director Linda Bisesti says students have a marvelous opportunity to learn from Wolpe, a critically praised Shakespearean expert. In 2006, Wolpe directed the festival’s “The Winter’s Tale.”
“Lisa is one of the most talented people I’ve worked with,” says Bisesti, who plays Queen Elizabeth. “Her knowledge of Shakespeare is off the charts. She’s an excellent director.”
As artistic director of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, an all-female, multicultural theater company, Wolpe is known for cross-gender casting. Besides herself playing the title character, Michael Kachingwe (Actors’ Equity Association) plays Margaret, widow of King Henry VI. In addition, Wolpe shifts the setting from the original late 15th century to the fictitious, fascist England, between the first and second world wars.
Theatre major Daniella Tarankow, who plays the Duchess of York, says students will be challenged to work in a professional environment with experienced actors. Unlike the campus productions during the academic year, the festival has fewer rehearsal dates and a longer performance schedule.
“The demands are different because on the first day of rehearsals, you’re off to work,” says Tarankow, who played Horatio in last year’s production of “Hamlet.” “There are higher standards. I like that.”
Tarankow isn’t the only veteran student in the “Richard III” cast. Robert Shields, who played Hamlet, takes on the role of Buckingham, the king’s power-hungry co-conspirator. Professional actors also include Katrinka Wolfson as Lady Anne and Jack Grigoli as Clarence.
Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. will be held Sept. 10, 17, 23, 24 and Oct. 1. Sunday performances at 2 p.m. will be on Sept. 11, 18, 25 and Oct. 2. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students, faculty, staff and seniors. Guests are encouraged to reserve tickets early as the Studio Theatre seats only 67 people and the shows are expected to sell out.
Tickets go on sale Aug. 15 and can be reserved online at https://classcsupomona.tix.com. (The $1.50 service fee goes directly to the online vendor, not the university.) For more information, call (909) 869-3900.
(Top photo: Richard III, played by Lisa Wolpe on right, and Lady Anne, played by Katrinka Wolfson, struggle with a knife. Bottom photo: Michael Kachingwe plays Queen Margaret in “Richard III”.)