Once again the Freewill Shakespeare Festival prepares to showcase two stellar productions from the Bard’s catalogue, set under the stars at Hawrelak Park.
For the open-air festival’s 23rd season, artistic director Marianne Copithorne has programmed Othello and Twelfth Night. They will be performed on alternating nights.
Othello, which has never been mounted at the festival, opens Thursday, June 30 and Twelfth Night debuts on Friday, July 1 at the Heritage Amphitheatre.
John Kirkpatrick, one of the leading lights of St. Albert Children’s Theatre and former festival director, has been cast as Cassio, Othello’s doomed lieutenant. In Twelfth Night he takes on the comic role of Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Both of Kirkpatrick’s characters are men taken advantage of in the course of the play. “Make no mistake. They are vastly different characters,” says Kirkpatrick.
In Othello, a play about deception and doomed love, Cassio is a stand-up military man, a soldier filled with integrity who is unfortunately easily manipulated by the jealous villain Iago. “He’s not dumb, but he is simple and he believes people.”
Sir Andrew Aguecheek is more of a comic buffoon, a well-off drinking buddy to Sir Toby Belch. Together they spend their time drinking, singing and dancing. In between swilling ale, Aguecheek tries to prove his manhood in swaggering, sword-drawing brawls.
“He’s funny, sad. He’s a naif. He really thinks the best of people. I haven’t played a comic role like Aguecheek in a long time and I’m going to really enjoy it.”
Copithorne has cast real-life husband and wife team Mark Meer and Belinda Cornish as the tragic Othello and Desdemona, while John Ullyatt is the nasty piece of work, Iago.
“John is a wonderful villain. He loves to communicate with the audience. He’s always interacting with them.”
And Kirkpatrick gives high marks to Bradley Moss, artistic director of Theatre Network, who makes his Freewill debut in Twelfth Night directing Troy O’Donnell (Malvolio), Annette Loiselle (Olivia) and Chris Bullough (Feste).
Performances run rain or shine Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Othello plays on even dates and Twelfth Night runs on odd dates and all matinees.
There is also a No Holds Bard Gala on Saturday, July 23 at 6 p.m. where the public can mix and mingle with the cast to celebrate the end of the season. Tickets for this fundraiser are $75 and can be purchased through the Freewill office at 780-425-8086.
Othello and Twelfth Night
June 30 to July 24
Heritage Amphitheatre, Hawrelak Park
Tickets: $22.50/single adult; $15/single student, senior; $35/festival pass. Call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at www.tixonthesquare.ca