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Politics played up in ʻRichard IIIʼ

April 12, 2012

The UW-River Falls University Theatre is preparing to stage an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” in a modernized setting, aimed at satirizing Wisconsin’s current political climate.

Director Sean Dooley feels the staging of this play is relevant to the ongoing elections and the clouded, troubled state of contemporary politics.

The implications of “Richard III” should “resonate beyond the play, and remind you of your own time and place,” Dooley said.

“Richard III” is a history play that depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The climactic moment brings Richard’s tyranny to an end, establishing the rule of a new dynasty with the heroic character of Richmond.

The destruction of Richard’s reign of terror marks the beginning of a golden age of peace and prosperity in England. Senior Danny Vopava has claimed the title role of Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Vopava is honored and excited to assume such a revered, powerful role, feeling certain that he can make it something extraordinary.

“There were a bunch of people who could have done a different job,” Vopava said. “A few other people in the department have that level of talent.”

Dooley seems confident that Vopava has the necessary attributes to make the staging of this play a success. Richard’s character is crippled, as manifested in his body.

As a talented actor Vopava will use Richard’s disability to his advantage, just as politicians use various impediments to their advantage, Dooley said.

“Danny is intelligent and inquisitive,” Dooley said. “It will be on Danny’s shoulders to carry the show.” Vopava agrees that the staging of “Richard III” is appropriate in light of existing politics.

“The show is haunted by echoes of the Scott Walker controversy,” Vopava said. “The set looks exactly like the Madison capitol building.” The set design will use “different visual elements that might be reminiscent of a certain political climate,” Dooley said.

Junior Alexander Swanson plays Richard’s right-hand man in the role of Buckingham. The play involves “fighting for power, and lies upon lies upon lies,” Swanson said.

Vopava expressed concern in regards to how he thinks the student population perceives Shakespeare.

“Many see Shakespeare as intimidating and inaccessible,” Vopava said. “But when you see a good actor reading those lines, you immediately know what they’re talking about.”

“It’s not a battle on horses with swords,” Dooley said.

“It’s a fistfight at the Capitol. Visually it will look like a contemporary play.”

The play as well as the set design by Director of Theatre Ken Stofferahn will be entered into the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) for potential awards. The ACTF is a prestigious annual national festival, showcasing the finest of each region’s entered productions.

UWRF competes as part of region three. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 19-21, 7 p.m. April 26, and 7:30 p.m. April 27-28 in the Blanche Davis Theatre at the Kleinpell Fine Arts building. All performances are free, though reserve seating is required. Tickets are available at the University Box Office in KFA.