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Houston Shakespeare Fest Brings Bard's Works to Bayou City

Antony and Cleopatra and As You Like It performed Aug. 2 - 11 at Miller Outdoor Theatre

The Bayou City loves the Bard.

Each summer, thousands of Houstonians flock to Miller Outdoor Theatre to experience the Houston Shakespeare Festival produced by the School of Theatre & Dance. This year marks the 38th anniversary of the popular event, which delivers free performances featuring noted artists as directors and leading actors.

The 2013 event will include “Anthony and Cleopatra” helmed by guest director Leah C. Gardiner and “As You Like It” directed by guest director Marc Masterson. Visiting actors include Seth Gilliam, Chris Hutchison, Crystal Dickinson and Brandon Dirden.

This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of one of its founders, former School of Theatre & Dance director Sidney Berger, who died in February.

All performances begin at 8:30 p.m. at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Admission is free, but tickets are required for seats. For details on tickets or the box office, visit the Miller Outdoor Theatre’s website. Performance dates are as follows:

  • “Antony and Cleopatra” – Aug. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10
  • “As You Like It” – Aug. 3, 7, 9, 11

This summer is a return engagement for Ms. Gardiner, who directed the Houston Shakespeare Festival’s 2011 production of “Othello, the Moor of Venice.” She directed in 2012 the national premiere of Sucker Punch by Roy Williams at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. and was awarded a 2011 Village Voice Obie Award for her direction of the Off-Broadway production of Born Bad by Debbie Tucker Green at the Soho Rep Theatre. Ms. Gardiner’s other directing credits include the 2011 world premiere of The Flag Maker of Market Street by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery.

Mr. Masterson is the new artistic director of the Tony award-winning South Coast Repertory, a regional theatre located in Costa Mesa, Calif.  His earliest theater experiences include acting in a Houston Shakespeare Festival production. Mr. Masterson served as artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville and the internationally-acclaimed HUMANA FESTIVAL, where he produced more than 200 new plays. Masterson is an award-winning director who enjoys working on new plays as well as innovative productions of the classics.

Mr. Gilliam stars as Antony in Antony and Cleopatra and Jaques in As You Like It. In 2011, he performed the title role in Houston Shakespeare Festival’s Othello. He has performed a range of stage and screen roles including recurring characters on HBO’s “The Wire” and “Oz.” He can currently be seen in MTV’s Teen Wolf scripted series. Mr. Gilliam’s film credits 1996’s Courage Under Fire, 1997’s Starship Troopers and 2009’s Did You Hear About the Morgans? In 2013, he will co-star in the film Police State.

Ms. Dickinson plays Cleopatra in Anthony and Cleopatra and Celia in As You Like It. She has appeared as Melissa on the television series “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” and earned a Theater World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut for her portrayal of Francine/Lena in Clybourne Park. She appeared in Enron on Broadway. Her Off-Broadway appearances include Born Bad, Sundown Names and Night Gone Things, Bottom of the World, Ruined and The First Breeze of Summer. Dickinson has appeared with several regional companies including Contemporary American Theater Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, and Shakespeare festivals in Georgia and Illinois.

Mr. Dirden will play Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra and Duke Frederick/Corin in As You Like It. He has starred as Marcus in “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” and appeared on Showtime’s “The Big C.” He received a 2013 Obie award for his performance as Boy Willie in “The Piano Lesson.” He also performed in “Detroit ’67,” a co-production between the Public Theater, Classical Theater of Harlem and the National Black Theatre. Broadway appearances include Prelude to a Kiss and Enron. Mr. Dirden has appeared in several off-Broadway productions including “Peter and the Star Catcher,” “Edgewise,” “Bottom of the World” and “The First Breeze of Summer.” He has starred in productions with Two River Theater Company in New Jersey, South Coast Repertory, and Shakespeare festivals in Georgia and North Carolina.

Mr. Hutchison performs the roles of Enobarus in Antony and Cleopatra and Touchstone in As You Like It.  He is a member of the Alley Theatre’s acting company and has performed in productions of A Behanding in Spokane, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Proof and A Christmas Carol. He has performed with the Alley for six years. He’s appeared on stages across the country with companies such as Pasadena Playhouse, Milwaukee Rep, Pittsburgh Public and Baltimore Center Stage. Hutchison has been on several television shows including Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show, CBS’ Guiding Light and ABC’s All My Children.

Since 1975, the Houston Shakespeare Festival has attracted thousands of Houstonians to Miller Outdoor Theatre for free performances of the Bard's timeless classics. HSF productions have and will continue to feature rising talents and esteemed stage veterans.

- By Mike Emery