This summer, the timeless theater of the Bard returns to the Bayou City courtesy of the University of Houston’s School of Theatre & Dance.
For more than 40 years, the school has delivered the Houston Shakespeare Festival (HSF) to eager audiences. This year’s event will continue this tradition with free performances of “Much Ado About Nothing” directed by Jack Young and “Henry V” directed by Lenny Banovez. Performances run July 29 through Aug. 7 at Hermann Park’s Miller Outdoor Theatre (6000 Hermann Park Dr.). All performances begin at 8:15 p.m.
The festival’s performance schedule is as follows:
- “Much Ado About Nothing” – July 29 and 31; Aug. 2, 4, 6
- “Henry V” – July 30, Aug. 3, 5, 7
“We’re looking forward to another season of entertaining Houstonians,” said associate professor Rob Shimko, who will take the reins as the festival’s executive director. “Last year, the festival drew more than 37,000 people to Miller Outdoor Theatre. I look forward to sharing the works of Shakespeare with even more people this summer.”
Shimko is looking forward to seeing several familiar faces back in Houston. The 2016 HSF Company will include many former UH students who are now flourishing as professional actors. Cast members include Brendan Marshall-Rashid in the title role in “Henry V” and Demetria Thomas as Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing.”
Additional cast members include Patrick Poole, Tim Sailer, Susie Parr and Andrew Garrett, who will perform roles in both plays. All of these actors will return to Houston after completing national tours with U.S. theater companies.
“These are actors who are applying what they learned at UH to their professional careers,” Shimko said. “I remember seeing them as students honing their talents on our stages. Now they are performing for audiences around the country. We’re honored to welcome these acting alums back to the city.”
Actors not only will reunite with local audiences, but with former professor and HSF artistic director Young, who will direct them in “Much Ado About Nothing.” Young has directed more than 120 plays including 30 Shakespeare productions. He has acted in and directed HSF plays since 2011. Among the festival plays he’s helmed are “The Taming of the Shrew” (2011), “Henry IV, I” (2014) and “Macbeth” (2015). Audiences also will recall his villainous portrayals of Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” (2015) and Iago in “Othello” (2011).
His fellow director Banovez is no stranger to Shakespeare. As artistic director for Titan Theatre Company in New York, he has directed productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Henry V,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Macbeth.” Banovez has worked with several national festivals including the Texas Shakespeare Festival, Virginia Shakespeare Festival and Milwaukee Shakespeare Festival.
In addition to producing plays at Miller Outdoor Theatre, the UH School of Theatre & Dance hosts the HSF Conservatory. This 17-day summer camp provides professional theater training to high school students. Participants have the opportunity to perform in festival productions and learn from veteran actors and directors.
The Houston Shakespeare Festival was founded in 1975 by Sidney Berger, UH professor emeritus and longtime director of UH’s School of Theatre & Dance. Since its inception, the festival has entertained thousands of Houstonians and attracted national theater talents. Previous HSF performers include Seth Gilliam, OBIE-award winner Brandon Dirden, Crystal Dickinson, Mirron Willis, Ken Ruta, Mark Metcalf and Cindy Pickett. Festival alumni also include film and television star Brett Cullen and actor/writer Robert Wuhl, who both contributed their talents while attending UH.