by Jonathan Dermid – Staff Writer – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Montford Park Players kicked off their 40th season on Saturday with a rendition of “Richard II” to a packed house at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater. The production is free of charge, so it is accessible for anyone who wants to see Shakespeare performed, regardless of economic status.
When asked about the logistics and motivations behind a free production, managing director John Russell said, “When the company was founded in 1973, the goal of the founder was to make theater affordable. At that time, theater was attracting an elite, and our founder wanted to make it available to the masses.”
This has not been without its difficulties. Through grants and frequent donations of both money and supplies, the company has the resources to fulfill its goal.
“We do an annual fundraiser, and over the last few years we have gotten a small grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, through their Grassroots Grants Program. A lot of people donate in kind things such as paint, for example. Four years ago, a local woman went out of business and donated 400 gallons of paint, which we have been working from ever since,” Russell said.
The Players look to expand their facilities through grants and began applying for a long-term lease for the property, Russell said.
Adding to the accessibility is the aesthetic of the production itself, which, under the direction of Mandy Bean, has taken on a steampunk inspiration. According to her, the idea came very naturally.
“We were just sitting on the porch one night and Jason, one of our lead actors, just said ‘What if we did a steampunk version of ‘Richard II’?’ and that was basically it.”
“The text speaks for itself, no matter what setting you place the story in”, said Patrick Hackney, acting veteran and one of the stars of “Richard II.”
The informality of the play also adds to its accessibility. Even though the text remains unchanged, the production incorporates crowd interaction by occasionally breaking the fourth wall, where the actors acknowlege the crowd as if they are part of the play.
“It definitely is great to include the audience with the fourth wall breaking”, said Art Moore, an actor in the play. “Because when they’re giving energy back to you, you feed off of it as an actor.”
There was certainly no shortage of energy in Saturday’s performance. If their inaugural show is any indication, their 40th season stands to be another success for the Players.