For as long as I can remember, I harbored a fiery fascination for Shakespeare’s powerful tale of a wicked deformed king and his conquests both on the battlefield and in the boudoir.
In 1990, I was plucked to perform the title role of Richard III at the British American Drama Academy. Led by the legendary Michael Langham (Artistic Director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Guthrie Theater, Juilliard Drama School) and performing before Royal Shakespeare Company elite’s Jeremy Irons, Fiona Shaw, Julian Glover, Charles Dance, and Simon Callow, most young men might have been deterred by the winter of discontent.
But I could not have been keener to combat Laurence Olivier and every eternal player of the past. A vile charm contorted me, and I was filled with the perverse periodic pleasure to play the deceptive Duke of Gloucester.
In rehearsal, Langham was merciless and meticulous, working for hours on a single sentence. When the day finally arrived, the lights dimmed, and just before the curtain rose, the great director walked the wing and whispered in my ear,
“If you do not perform Richard splendidly, you won’t leave here with any dignity.”
A stinging aside as seductive and sharp as Shakespeare himself.
When I returned to the states to perform a royal run at the University of the Arts, I relished the opportunity to refresh this black humor portrait of ruthlessness, for Richard is the kind of role that never leaves the soul. Power and sovereignty. Seductive and sinister. Mood and Monarchy.
When they identified the old king’s bones in a car park in 2015, it opened the door to discovery. Seems my family tree now flowers with roses, and I recognize that maybe Royal succession ain’t so straightforward after all.