Classic plays refreshed at Houston Shakespeare Festival

HSF presents two shows, Twelfth Night and Richard III, at Miller Outdoor Theatre this summer.

Sophia Kontos

HSF presents two shows, Twelfth Night and Richard III, at Miller Outdoor Theatre this summer.

Sophia Kontos, Online Section Editor

What would make me go outside in Houston in the middle of summer?

Honestly, not much. There is one notable exception: Houston Shakespeare Festival at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Even if your only encounter with Shakespeare has been your high school English class, the shows put on at HSF are captivating and engaging in a way that simply reading Romeo and Juliet freshmen year never was.

HSF is a festival produced by the UH School of Theatre and Dance that puts on two of Shakespeare’s works each summer at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The company was founded in 1975 by Dr. Sidney Berger in order to use Shakespeare to “explore our common humanity.” This year, Mayor Turner named July 28th “Houston Shakespeare Festival Day” to honor the festival’s impact on the community.

This year, HSF presents Twelfth Night and Richard III as their comedic and dramatic productions, respectively. For a bit of lighthearted fun, Twelfth Night explores the dangers of love and mistaken identities in a modern interpretation that keeps the Shakespearean text, but adds in original songs sung and accompanied by the cast. Even when I couldn’t understand the Shakespearean English, the physical comedy of all the characters brought the story to life, and all of the actors committed to being as drunk, crazy or bad at dancing as their characters are. In contrast, Richard III explores one of Shakespeare’s most villainous characters. The titular character was duplicitous and wickedly ambitious, with the actor bringing him to life with devious secret plots covered by a false, sickly sweetness. The show started and ended with death and kept that theme close to heart throughout the show.

The actors work in both productions with many undertaking large roles in both shows (HSF’s artistic director Jack Young directs Twelfth Night and plays the titular character in Richard III). Not only can the actors nail both the comedic and the dramatic aspects of the shows, but they also had the musical talent to perform original songs in Twelfth Night, largely considered Shakespeare’s most musical show. It might be hot, but you won’t notice as you watch these actors perform in some of the best (and free) theatre that Houston has to offer.

Shows continue through August 6th at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Twelfth Night will play again on July 30, August 1, 3 and 5 at 8:15pm. Richard III will play again on August 2, 4 and 6 at 8:15pm.