Royal Shakespeare Company Exits Park Avenue Armory Aug. 14

News   Royal Shakespeare Company Exits Park Avenue Armory Aug. 14
The Royal Shakespeare Company, which offered a six-week, five-play residency in a custom-made theatre constructed within the Park Avenue Armory, concludes its New York engagement Aug. 14.

Katy Stephens and Jonjo O'Neill in RSC's As You Like It
Katy Stephens and Jonjo O'Neill in RSC's As You Like It Photo by Stephanie Berger

The Lincoln Center Festival aligned with the Armory and Ohio State University to bring the RSC to New York as the culmination of three years' worth of rehearsal and performances. RSC artistic director Michael Boyd presided over the 44-performance event, presented on a thrust stage recreation of the RSC's Courtyard Theatre.

The 965-seat theatre was specifically designed as a freestanding structure to fit within the Armory's Wade Thompson Drill Hall. Forty-one actors and 21 musicians comprise the troupe who offer As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, The Winter's Tale and Julius Caesar in repertory. Performances began July 6.

The engagement was not without its share of celebration and drama. Actor Sam Troughton, who played Romeo, injured himself during an early performance of Romeo and Juliet and was succeeded by understudy Dyfan Dwyfor. Troughton later resumed performances in Julius Caesar.

The RSC also dropped the use of a dead rabbit in a scene from As You Like It, after animal lovers and activists protested the skinning of an animal carcass on stage. The scene was popular in London, according to the RSC.

"The first conversations were in about 2007, when we first met up with the Lincoln Center Festival and started talking about bringing the entire repertoire to New York," RSC executive director Vikki Heywood told "Then we came and saw the Park Avenue Armory, which was the most extraordinary and wonderfully inspiring space. And so from that point onwards we really started to develop the plans. We built this auditorium in our workshops in Stratford-upon-Avon, and that's been happening over about the past nine months. So, really, it's been a huge project." Heywood said that bringing the replica of the Courtyard Theatre was essential to create "a fantastic intimate relationship between the actor and the audience, and the audience with itself. So when we had the opportunity to start thinking about bringing the entire repertoire to New York, it did become very important for us to maintain that intimacy and that connection and to present our work in New York in the same way that we would do in Stratford-upon-Avon."

Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale in Romeo and Juliet.
photo by Ellie Kurttz

Here's a look at the schedule:

As You Like It. RSC artistic director Boyd directs a cast including Katy Stephens as Rosalind/Ganymede, Jonjo O'Neill as Orlando, Richard Katz as Touchstone, Mariah Gale as Celia, Geoffrey Freshwater as Corin, Forbes Masson as Jaques, Clarence Smith as Duke Ferdinand, James Tucker as Duke Frederick, Charles Aitken as Oliver, Dyfan Dwyfor as Silvius and Christine Entwisle as Phoebe.

Romeo and Juliet, helmed by Rupert Goold (Enron). Sam Troughton and Mariah Gale starred in the titular roles, with Forbes Masson as Friar Lawrence, Joseph Arkley as Tybalt, James Howard as Paris, Jonjo O'Neill as Mercutio, Noma Dumezweni as the Nurse, Richard Katz as Lord Capulet, Oliver Ryan as Benvolio, Christine Entwisle as Lady Capulet and David Carr as Escalus.

David Farr directed King Lear. Greg Hicks portrayed the failing king. The cast also featured Sophie Russell as The Fool, Charles Aitken as Edgar, Geoffrey Freshwater as Gloucester, Darrell D'Silva as Kent, Samantha Young as Cordelia, Kelly Hunter as Goneril, Katy Stephens as Regan, John Mackay as Duke of Albany, Clarence Smith as Duke of Cornwall, James Tucker as Oswald and Tunji Kasim as Edmund.

Farr also staged The Winter's Tale. The cast included Greg Hicks as Leontes, Kelly Hunter as Hermione, Darrell D'Silva as Polixenes, Samantha Young as Perdita, Tunji Kasim as Florizel, Brian Doherty as Autolycus, David Rubin as Antigonus, Noma Dumezweni as Paulina, Larrington Walker as the Old Shepherd, John Mackay as Camillo and Gruffudd Glyn as Young Shepherd.

Playbill took a tour of the Park Avenue Armory as the RSC was putting the finishing touches on the installation of its playhouse there. Take a look:

Lucy Bailey directed Julius Caesar. The cast included Greg Hicks as Caesar, Sam Troughton as Brutus and Darrell D’Silva as Mark Antony.

In addition to its five full stagings, RSC's Young People's Shakespeare productions offered abbreviated presentations of Hamlet (directed by Brother/Sister Plays playwright Tarrell Alvin McCraney) and The Comedy of Errors (directed by Paul Hunter and produced in association with the British Theatre company Told by An Idiot).

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