First Rehearsal for “Richard II”

Rehearsals for Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of “Richard II” began on December 10 in the rehearsal rooms at Seattle Children’s Theatre. Director Rosa Joshi, her designers, a cast of 16 actors, the staff and invited guests gathered to hear about plans for the production.  Here’s a look at what’s in store for January’s production of “Richard II.”

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    Artistic Director George Mount, who will also play the title role of Richard, welcomed everyone in the room. “One of the great aspects of my job to bring great artists together to work on projects that they’re passionate about, so I’m so thrilled to have Rosa Joshi making her SSC debut with us and ‘Richard II’”
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    Director Rosa Joshi is one of the founders of upstart crow, a Seattle-based, all-female collective committed to creating classical works for a contemporary audience. “‘Richard’ II is a play I’ve always loved and I feel fortunate to be able to work on it will all of you. And I’m not used to working with so many men. I’m glad we’ve got some women in the room.”
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    Alex Matthews (L) will play Lord Willoughby and Dan Kremer (R) will play John of Gaunt. Both actors appeared in Seattle Shakespeare Company’s 2012 production of “Antony and Cleopatra.”
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    George Mount (L) will play King Richard and Brenda Joyner (R) will play his Queen. Mount directed the fall production of “Much Ado About Nothing” where Joyner played the role of Hero.
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    In sharing her thoughts about the play and Richard’s journey, Joshi said, “Richard’s identity is stripped away and he loses everything. He is left at the end to confront who he is and why he exists when everything that has given his life purpose has been taken away. That to me seems very contemporary and seems very much of the now. It’s something we can all identify with…what is it give up everything that defines who you are? When you’re left with just yourself…what the heck is that? Who is that? Who are you and what’s your purpose?
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    Peter A. Jacobs will play the Duke of York and Jason Marr will play Bagot, one of Richard’s friends. Jacobs recently appeared as Leonato in this fall’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” Marr last appeared with SSC in “Antony and Cleopatra.”
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    Kate Wisniewski (L), one of the co-founders of upstart crow collective, will play the Duchess of York and the Duchess of Gloucester. Reginald Andre Jackson (R) plays the Earl of Northumberland. “Richard II” marks Jackson’s 15th production with Seattle Shakespeare Company.
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    Not only is “Richard II” a play about the politics and history of the English crown, it’s also a story about a family. The characters not only need to negotiate their loyalty to the state, they also need to negotiate their loyalty to family. “Because the hierarchy and the political landscape are really prevalent, and the play is filled with lords and their factions, sometimes we forget that everyone is related. This is one really large dysfunctional somewhat inbred family”
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    Set designer Carol Wolfe Clay created a beautiful and simple landscape for the play. “When I read the play I was really struck by the beauty of the language, and as a set designer, I wasn’t so sure that I should be doing a lot to hide that. The first image that came into my head was some kind of raised, elevated platform…and for some reason it was gold.
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    Set model for "Richard II"
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    One of the inspirations for creating the world of “Richard II” was Wilton’s Diptych which is a series of paintings created for the actual Richard II. One of the panels in the series is an image of a white hart with a crown around his neck with a chain. “I thought it was very evocative for this play and how I see this play,” said Joshi. “So this color palette informed our creation of the world of the play: browns, blacks, ivory and gold.”
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    “The palette for the music is the world of organ and horns and voice,” said Sound Designer Dominic CodyKramers. “The main composer that we’re looking at is Arvo Part and some of his not so famous pieces which aren’t choral but more singular voices.”
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    According to Lighting Designer Geoff Korf, the challenge of lighting “Richard II” will be trying to marry the simplicity of the other designs and still have defined places for all the area that the play travels to. “I’m still questioning how much I might push the goldenness of the light,” said Korf. “There’s a point where we won’t see the gold in the costumes if the lights are too gold.”
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    Much of the burden of establishing the medieval world of “Richard II” falls to costume designer Jocelyn Fowler. “The costumes are going to stick to a pretty medieval silhouette,” said Fowler. “I’m going to use modern fabrics to create the real look. In my renderings there is some color, but we decided to really strip it down and use golds, ivories, and browns.”
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    Richard and his followers will have longer tunics and stick closer to the gold and ivory palette. Bolingbroke and his men will have shorter tunics and will lean towards the brown palette.
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    King Richard
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    Bishop of Carlisle
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    Duke of Aumerle
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    Duke of York
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    John of Gaunt
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    Duchess of York
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    Duchess of Gloucester
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    Ross, Northumberland, Willoughby
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    Research and costume renderings. “We’re in a realistic medieval world, but simplified,” said Joshi. “What keeps us in a stylized world is that the color palette is so strict.” With a very spare set that only has a throne as its main set piece, it will be a unique challenge for the actors to create the places and world of “Richard II.” “Like an Elizabethan player, the story telling will be through character, through action, and through language,” said Joshi. “And I think that’s the most powerful kind of story-telling there is.”











  1. says

    The slides go too fast to be read—and I am a super-fast reader who usually finishes the text on movie screens long before the rest of the audience does.

    It looks like a super production. Good luck.

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