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New, Free Shakespeare In The Park Production Of ‘Richard II’ To Debut Tonight As Four-Part Radio Play

The Public Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s Richard II, originally slated to begin its 2020 Free Shakespeare in the Park season at the Delacorte Theater in New York’s Central Park, will still go on, as a four-part radio play debuting on WNYC at 8 p.m. EDT tonight.  

Richard II will be broadcast over four nights from tonight through Thursday, July 16 at 8:00 p.m. EDT on WNYC 93.9 FM and AM 820 for listeners in the New York area; it also will stream at WNYC.org. WNYC will also make the series available as a podcast for on-demand listening.

In the drama, when King Richard banishes his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and deprives him of his inheritance, he unwittingly creates an enemy who will ultimately force him from the throne. One of the Bard’s only dramas entirely in verse, this epic and intimate play presents the rise of the house of Lancaster through a riveting tale of lost sovereignty, political intrigue and psychological complexity.

“A fractured society. A man wrongfully murdered. The palpable threat of violence and revenge against a broken system. Revolution and regime change. This was Shakespeare’s backdrop for Richard II. I’m exceptionally proud of this production, recorded for public radio with a predominantly Black, indigenous and people of color ensemble, led by the extraordinary André Holland,” said the new production’s director, Saheem Ali. “It’s my hope that listening to Shakespeare’s words, broadcast in the midst of a pandemic and an uprising, will have powerful resonance in our world.”

The complete cast of Richard II will feature Barzin Akhavan (Salisbury/Marshall), Sean Carvajal (Gardener’s Man/Surrey), Michael Bradley Cohen (Bushy), Sanjit De Silva (Mowbray/Exton), Biko Eisen-Martin (Fitzwater), Michael Gaston (Northumberland), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Gardener), André Holland (King Richard II), Miriam A. Hyman (Bolingbroke), Merritt Janson (Scroop), Elijah Jones (Hotspur), Dakin Matthews (Gaunt), Jacob Ming-Trent (Carlisle), Maria Mukuka (Queen’s Lady/Servant), Okwui Okpokwasili (Willoughby/Abbot), Estelle Parsons (Duchess of York), Tom Pecinka (Aumerle), Phylicia Rashad (Duchess of Gloucester), Reza Salazar (Welsh Captain), Thom Sesma (Ross/Keeper), Sathya Sridharan (Bagot), John Douglas Thompson (York), Claire van der Boom (Queen), Natalie Woolams-Torres (Green) and Ja’Siah Young (Groom). The drama also features original music composition by Michael Thurber.

In support of the fight against racism and inequality and in recognition of the unspeakable violence against Black communities, the Public Theater and company dedicate this production to the Black Lives Matter movement.

For the first time in its almost 60-year history, Free Shakespeare in the Park is not taking place, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Public and WNYC hope this beloved summer tradition will continue, in a new way, and reach an even wider audience than before.

Continuing Free Shakespeare in the Park offerings this summer, THIRTEEN’s Great Performances will present an encore national broadcast of the Public’s 2019 summer production of Much Ado About Nothing on Friday, August 14 at 9:00 p.m. on PBS, pbs.org/gperf, and the PBS Video app. This bold interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece is set in contemporary Georgia with an election race underway. It finds the community of Messina celebrating a break from an ongoing war, though not all is peaceful amid the merriment. Former rivals battle it out, revenge is sought and trickery runs amok in this timeless comedy of romantic retribution and miscommunication.

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