In 2019, I was honored to play Polonius in Shakespeare@’s hit inaugural production of Hamlet. I was scheduled to play Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet for them this Spring, but COVID-19 forced the theatre to cancel both of its planned stage productions for 2020.
Undeterred by that setback, resourceful and inspired Artistic Director Sean Hagerty and his Associate Producer Sydney Steele came up with a wonderfully entertaining way to keep creating Shakespeare productions and sharing them with audiences even while theatres remain closed: radio plays!
Sean brought together a host of great talent from a number of countries, including a number of Hamlet cast members, to create a Zoom-based audio production of Richard II, starring Jamie Ballard as Richard and Derek Wilson as Henry Bolingbroke. I was thrilled he asked me to take on the role of Edmund, Duke of York. Like Polonius, he’s a faithful court advisor who has trouble with his children! And in fact, Aria Shaghasemi, who played my son Laertes in Hamlet, is playing my son Aumerle in this radio play. To make it even better (if that’s possible), the fabulous Ashlie Atkinson played my wife, the Duchess of York. We’re a wonderfully dysfunctional family! This was a terrific cast of genuinely sweet people and we had a terrifically fun week together online. The two hours we all spent creating sound effects together was a highlight!
Sean did an amazing job adapting and directing this project. This man knows his Shakespeare. The production has sound design by the fabulous Dan Gerhard and Ellen Fitton of the Emmy-winning Sonic Designs, and wonderful music by Joan Melton, who is also the company’s indispensable dialect and speech coach. Listening to it, with all the great sound effects, you’d never know the cast was spread out over a about sixteen Zoom windows and at least three countries!
Richard II is being released on Shakespeare@’s website for FREE. How cool is that??Episode One is available now. You can click here to listen to it on their website. The episode is just under an hour and I have to say it sounds wonderful. I hope you’ll give all three parts a listen as they come out–and let me know what you think!