Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

“Great actors, great artists, great plays.” That’s what Patrick Mulcahy, producing artistic director, says will be the highlight of the 27th season of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, which runs from June 1 to August 15 at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts at DeSales University’s Center Valley campus. 

“Great actors, great artists, great plays.” That’s what Patrick Mulcahy, producing artistic director, says will be the highlight of the 27th season of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, which runs from June 1 to August 15 at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts at DeSales University’s Center Valley campus. This year’s festival will feature three plays by the festival’s namesake: Twelfth Night, King Richard II, and All’s Well That Ends Well, along with the bard-inspired Shakespeare in Love, and the musical Ragtime. Younger audiences can enjoy Alice in Wonderland and Shakespeare for Kids, a one-hour production for preschool and elementary age students that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer.

“We are producing some of the best plays in the English language that have been tested, sometimes across centuries, and we hire decorated and gifted artists to bring them to life,” says Mulcahy.

New actors include Christian Coulson, who played Tom Riddle in the Harry Potter films

Festival planners manage the selection of Shakespeare’s plays with great care—for balance, variety, and dimension. The team creates a rough 10-year plan for when they’ll produce the playwright’s works, and adjusts as needed. But a balance of old and new is certainly an important hallmark of the festival, and always will be. “Contemporary plays help add to the richness, and, to some extent, help welcome new patrons who haven’t yet been properly introduced to Shakespeare,” says Mulcahy. “Once they’re here, we invite them to see a Shakespeare play for their next visit.”

A crucial step in getting someone interested in Shakespeare? Invite them to the Prologues, which are held in the theatre before each Shakespearean play. These walk you through the play in advance so you have a better idea of what’s going on. “Usually, after that, they’re hooked,” says Mulcahy. “No one is born loving Shakespeare. Someone has to properly introduce you.”

The productions will likewise feature a mix of old and new faces. “With a company of actors in recent years that includes Tony and Emmy winners and nominees, we have a great pool of actors to draw from, and still each year we find new actors who are extraordinary,” says Mulcahy. Many audience favorites are returning, while new actors include Christian Coulson, who played Tom Riddle in the Harry Potter films (and who will play be playing King Richard II at the festival); Brandi Burkhardt and Nkrumah Gatling of Broadway fame; and Richard White, who voiced Gaston in the animated Disney classic Beauty and the Beast.

King Richard II, making its festival debut, will be the 30th of Shakespeare’s 38 plays to be offered at the festival, while Twelfth Night, an audience favorite, returns after a 10-year absence. “No two productions are the same, which is part of the magic and ephemeral nature of live theatre,” says Mulcahy.

Mulcahy will be directing Shakespeare in Love, his first non-Shakespeare play at the festival in about 15 years. “I’m a fan of the playwright Tom Stoppard, who was one of the screenwriters on the film. His wit and invention is a great match for this epic romance that has everything: man meets woman, man writes the greatest love tragedy of all time, woman gets to live fully and authentically in a period when that was nearly impossible. Plus sword fights, comedy, live music, and a dog!” What could be better than that?

Visit pashakespeare.org or call the box office at 610-282-WILL, for more information, ticket subscriptions, or single tickets.

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Schedule

Ragtime, June 13 – July 1

Twelfth Night, June 21 – July 15

Shakespeare in Love, July 11 – Aug 5

King Richard II, July 19 – Aug 5

All’s Well That Ends Well, July 25 – Aug 5

Alice in Wonderland, June 1 –  Aug 4

Shakespeare for Kids, July 25 – Aug 4

The Great Divorce, June 25

Dan Domenach – Bootleg Famous:

To Broadway and Beyond, July 30

Visit pashakespeare.org/psf_calendar.php, for the full calendar.

Expanded Accessibility

This year’s performances are accessible to more people than ever before. Open-captioned performances of Ragtime on June 27 and Shakespeare in Love on June 25 will benefit audience members who are deaf and hard of hearing by displaying live text and sounds of the performances. These plays will also be audio-described for blind and low-vision audience members.

Relaxed performances, which offer a sensory-friendly theatre experience for people with sensory, learning, and communication differences, will be offered for Alice in Wonderland on June 29 and Shakespeare for Kids on August 1. These productions include a reduction of startling sound or lighting effects; freedom to vocalize, stand, and leave seats during the performance; freedom to use personal electronic devices; and the establishment of a “shush-free zone,” in which all modes of expression are accepted.

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