HOUSTON – Houston Shakespeare Festival founder and producing director Sidney Berger has announced casting for this summer's presentation of King Lear and Two Gentlemen of Verona, and most of the roles are going to Houstonians, a result which pleases him immensely and one for which he consciously strives.
The searing tragedy and the giddy comedy will run in repertory July 31 - August 15 at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. The productions are free of charge to theatergoers, always have been, always will be. Performances begin at sunset, so as to minimize the humidity. Though there are 1,582 seats under a canopy, each night thousands of additional patrons picnic on the great lawn overlooking the amphitheatre while attending to the Bard. This year marks the festival's twenty-fourth season and Berger, whose many other hats include director of the University of Houston School of Theatre, has received mayoral proclamations, not to mention national recognition, for his Shakespearean ways.
Charles Krohn, a member of the Alley Theatre resident acting company, will reign as King Lear, a part he's never played before, though Krohn himself is a patriarch in his personal life, being the husband and father to a large thespian family who get along peachy. Charles Sanders, who frequently appears at the Alley, is the Fool. Rutherford Cravens, a longtime member of Houston Shakespeare Festival, is the Earl of Kent. And veteran regional actor James Belcher is the Earl of Gloucester.
Berger directs. "I chose King Lear because I think periodically we have to be certain we don't back away from the masterpieces," Berger earlier told PBOL. "I will situate it not in the contemporary world, not in a historic world, but in a devised world."
Tony Award nominee and University of Houston School of Theatre professor Kevin Rigdon is the scenic designer. Cravens, founder of Shakespeare Outreach, an educational program for children, directs Two Gentlemen of Verona. Given his thoughts on accessibility, it should be no surprise that he will set the frolic in the 1960s.
Double duty leads the way in Verona. Moving up in the world, Belcher becomes the Duke of Milan. Sanders is Speed: is it fair to say he's going from Fool to foolhardy? Rigdon once again serves as the scenic designer.
Foster Davis is Proteus, the young man all in a pining blather. His temporarily forsaken love, Julia, is being played by Alissa Alban. Luis Galindo portrays Valentine.
Houston Shakespeare Festival is a professional project of the University of Houston School of Theatre. For information, call (713) 743-3003.
By Peter Szatmary