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Tangled tales of kings and lovers

T

he Oregon Shakespeare Festival — opens its outdoor season on the Elizabethan Stage with Shakespeare's masterful — tragedy "King Lear," June 18, the finale of Shakespeare's epic history — "Henry VI, Parts Two and Three: Henry and Margaret" June 19 and the endearing — tale of Benedick and Beatrice, "Much Ado about Nothing," June 20.

OSF Artistic Director Libby Appel, who co-directs "Henry — VI, Parts Two & Three: Henry and Margaret" with OSF Head of Voice and — Text Scott Kaiser, notes that "on the Elizabethan Stage this season audiences — can once again experience the infinite variety of Shakespeare."

His powerful and profound drama "King Lear" returns to — the outdoor Elizabethan Stage after 28 years, and audiences have the unique — opportunity to view "Henry VI, Parts Two & Three: Henry and Margaret," — a new adaptation by Kaiser, on the outdoor stage and Part One: Talbot — and Joan in the New Theatre.

"Much Ado About Nothing" is the third show in the Shakespeare — trilogy to be performed on the Elizabethan stage.

As the adapter of "Henry VI Parts Two and Three," Kaiser — was forced to combine three plays into two. These three plays have been — done at OSF in the past but never in the same season.

"I have taken what is essentially three Shakespeare plays — and adapted it to work as two shows," Kaiser said. "Part One is in the — New Theatre and Two and Three have been combined to make a single play — for the outdoor stage."

Significant cuts had to be made to Parts Two and Three.

"I did have to make choices about what would stay and — what would go," Kaiser explained. "That is partially why the plays have — subtitles. Part One has a subtitle, Talbot and Joan. That is because I — focused on the character of Joan La Pucelle and John Talbot.

"Parts Two and Three, I have subtitled Henry and Margaret — because we have chosen to really focus on the story of King Henry and — Queen Margaret. Using those subtitles made it easier to make decisions — about what needed to stay in the story and what needed to be set aside."

The challenge in casting the show, according to Kaiser, — was that Appel's vision of the whole project three years ago was that — all the major roles would carry over. So there are a large group of roles — that are in Part One that carry over into Parts Two and Three.

"King Lear" is directed by OSF Artistic Associate James — Edmondson. He has acted in productions of King Lear three times at the — Festival. Edmonson played Lear in Libby Appel's production in 1997, Lear's — Fool for OSF Artistic Director Emeritus Jerry Turner in 1985, and Gloucester — under the direction of former OSF director Pat Patton in 1976.

Edmonson said he feels he is better able to direct Lear — having played the man himself as well as other characters in the production.

"I have lived it, in a way, instead of just studying it," — he said. "However, one has to be careful not to impose things you discovered — on the actors you are directing. We did it 114 times. I have been in it — all told four times."

Ken Albers, who also is a director, is playing King Lear. — That too is a plus for Edmonson.

"I think we are both pretty good at turning off our director — minds when we are in rehearsal as an actor," he noted. "Ken tries my suggestions — and last year I was in 'Midsummer Night's Dream' and I did the same for — him."

The cast of 21 includes Albers as King Lear, Robert Vincent — Frank as Lear's Fool, Tony DeBruno as Gloucester, Ray Porter as Kent, — Maya Thomas as Goneril, Catherine Lynn Davis as Regan, Julie Oda as Cordelia, — Gregory Linington as Edgar and Jos Viramontes as Edmund.