Saturday night at 21c Museum Hotel, amidst Kentucky Shakespeare’s annual fundraiser “Shakespeare in Love,” Artistic Director Matt Wallace, with help from Associate Artistic Director Amy Attaway, announced an exciting slate of shows for Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s 59th summer season at the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheatre in Central Park.
The new season, which starts May 29, will include “As You Like It,” “Henry IV Part II” and “King Lear,” among many other surprises.
Wallace and Attaway spoke with Insider before the big night, giving us some details of what we can expect and some items that didn’t get as much attention at the party …
(The following has been editing for length and clarity.)
Insider Louisville: Let’s jump right in with “Henry IV Part II.” Why should people be excited about this one?
Amy Attaway: It takes a little left turn a bit from the straight-on succession scenario that the other three plays are all about. What we get to do in this play is spend a lot more time with (the character) Falstaff. (Henry IV) feels different than all the other histories really because we spend a lot less time with the Royals in this play than we do with (the commoners).
We get to see Falstaff have a real human journey. We get to see the crumbling and the tension between Falstaff and Prince Hal.
It’s still funny, but the jokes have a different flavor — it’s more pointed.
IL: And the characters are played by the same actors?
AA: That’s the most exciting thing for me about doing this whole series really, is getting to work with these actors to tell the story over the years.
IL: What can you tell us about season opener “As You Like It”?
Matt Wallace: So I thought it would be really fun to come back to 19th century Kentucky. So I keep coming back to the sort of Hatfields and McCoys, post-Civil War in Kentucky (era).
IL: And you’ve got a lot of familiar actors coming back for that show? I’ve been seeing some of them pop up over at Actors Theatre.
MW: I’m excited about a relationship with Actors Theatre. And at StageOne. What (the theater companies) want is we want to keep good artists living and working here. That’s really great for the art ecosystem of Louisville, and it’s great for the companies.
IL: What made you decide to tackle “King Lear” this season?
MW: Believe it or not, Kentucky Shakespeare has not produced “King Lear” professionally in 32 years. Isn’t that crazy? We’re going to set that one in historically accurate 8th century BC. It’s going to be the most primitive play.
Jon Huffman is going to play Lear … And I did mention this to you before, and it is happening — when I was watching Jennifer Pennington as Emilia last summer (in “Othello”), I was thinking, “I want her to play (the Earl of) Gloucester.
IL: That’s a role written as a man. Now, Gloucester has two sons, one is called — as Shakespeare puts it — “Edward the Bastard”?
MW: It’s a play. It’s fiction. We don’t have to be so locked into what actually happened in that time period. If she had a kid out of wedlock, then she’s bragging about it? In front of (the Earl of) Kent?
Well, you know what? It’s an interesting choice to say, “That’s what she did!” And Lear allowed it because they are so close.
MW: Is it important to let characters be played by someone of a different gender than Shakespeare wrote?
MW: I’m always thinking about our audience seeing themselves on our stage. So If I have an opportunity to play Gloucester with this badass (woman) actor, maybe that will make mothers connect more with this play.
IL: What else can we look forward to this season?
MW: So with the food trucks, the bar, the gift shop, people aren’t just showing up for the shows. So I want a way to engage the kids. We’re going to have a nightly tent called The Kid’s Globe. We’ll have hands-on, interactive activities free for the kids, tying into the play, so one night you might be making a puppet, another night you might be hearing about the plot of “Henry IV” or acting it out.
I want to mention, this is important to us, last May, Bekki Jo Schneider passed away. She was the immediate successor of Douglas Ramey and (founded) Derby Dinner Playhouse. So we’re dedicating the season to her memory, to celebrate her life and legacy. We’re announcing that we’re renaming (our) internship program The Bekki Jo Schneider Memorial Program.
She was instrumental to Kentucky Shakespeare and to me as a mentor.
Other announcements and highlights:
• The Globe Players (the high school training program Kentucky Shakespeare runs) will perform “Twelfth Night.”
• Because of weird new laws, all microphones had to be replaced.
• The sound trailer, located at the back of the audience, is new.
• Cincinnati Shakespeare will return with two nights of “Romeo and Juliet,” the first tragedy they have performed in Louisville since they started visiting two summers ago.
• The Louisville Ballet returns with “Cleopatra: Queen of Kings.” Roger Creel and Scott Moore again create the new piece, with the addition this year of Louisville Ballet dancer Erica De La O as lead choreographer.
Join Wallace, Attaway and the rest of their motley bunch when Kentucky Shakespeare’s 59th season starts May 29. The Shakespeare in the Parks tour of “Macbeth” runs April 7 through May 19. In the meantime, keep up with the company on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.