Brave Spirits Theatre kicks off festival of playreadings from the early English stage

Its season of Shakespeare's Histories cut short by a modern plague, the resourceful company goes back in time online.

Brave Spirits Theatre announces a virtual summer staged reading festival celebrating the history plays of the English early modern stage. A supplement to BST’s two-year Shakespeare’s Histories project, these plays reveal the breadth and popularity of the history genre during Shakespeare’s era. Moved to an online event due to COVID-19, these plays are being planned and performed by not only the Histories ensemble but also collaborators from across the world.

Histories reading festival graphic by Brave Spirits Theatre.

The reading festival will take place Mondays and Tuesdays from May 11 to June 2, 2020. Each performance will start at 7:30 pm* and will be streamed on BST’s YouTube channel. Written by playwrights such as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Heywood, George Peele, and John Ford, these plays span historical events from 1199 to 1499. These plays live in conversation with Shakespeare’s Histories, providing sources for Shakespeare’s plays and alternate versions of events and characters. (*The time of the final reading may change to accommodate international artists.)

Brave Spirits Theatre also announces the debut an online merchandise store. Though performances of The King’s Shadow (Richard the Second, Henry the Fourth Part 1, Henry the Fourth Part 2, and Henry the Fifth) ended early, patrons can still access items from the gift shop, including T-shirts, magnets, and the souvenir program, packed with production photos and dramaturgical essays. Purchases support Brave Spirits Theatre in the wake of performance cancelations, enabling the company to continue preparing for the second year of Shakespeare’s Histories.


Monday, May 11 @ 7:30 pm (EDT)
The Troublesome Reign of King John by George Peele –
Directed by Liam Thomas Daley

Tuesday, May 12 @ 7:30 pm (EDT)
Edward the Second by Christopher Marlowe
Directed by Jon Jon Johnson

Monday, May 18 @ 7:30 pm (EDT)
Edward the Third by Williams Shakespeare and others
Directed by Marshall B Garrett

Tuesday, May 19 @ 7:30 pm (EDT)
Thomas of Woodstock
Directed by Emily MacLeod

Monday, May 25 @ 7:30 pm (EDT)
The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth
Directed by Kelly Elliott

Tuesday, May 26 @ 7:30 pm (EDT)
Edward the Fourth, Parts 1 and 2 by Thomas Heywood
Directed by Claire Kimball

Monday, June 1 @ 7:30 pm (EDT)
The True Tragedy of Richard the Third
Guest performance by the MFA class of Mary Baldwin University

Tuesday, June 2 @ TBD
Perkin Warbeck by John Ford
Directed by Alasdair Hunter

Festival dramaturgy by Claire Kimball, Liam Thomas Daley, and Emily MacLeod. All readings will be free to stream; donations welcome.

Brave Spirits Theatre stages visceral and intimate productions of Shakespeare and his contemporaries with a focus on female artists and feminist perspectives. BST productions, which contrast the elegance of poetry with the basest elements of humanity, work to tear down the perception of these plays as proper and intellectual and instead use them to explore the boundaries of acceptable human behavior. Brave Spirits Theatre has been in residence in Alexandria, Virginia, at the Lab at Convergence since 2015.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made at the Brave Spirits Theatre website.

During a tumultuous period of less than a hundred years, England experienced civil war and political upheaval as the throne switched hands nine times. Shakespeare dramatized these events over the course of his career in eight remarkable plays: Richard the Second, Henry the Fourth Part 1, Henry the Fourth Part 2, Henry the Fifth, Henry the Sixth Part 1, Henry the Sixth Part 2, Henry the Sixth Part 3, and Richard the Third. Shakespeare’s epic eight-play saga captures the cyclical nature of violence and history while showcasing poignant domestic stories of families and their divided loyalties. Each chapter in this saga is extraordinary in its own right; together, they become a theatrical event unlike any other. Over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Brave Spirits Theatre will make history by becoming the first professional American theater company to mount full productions of Shakespeare’s two tetralogies and perform them in repertory. Performing near the nation’s capital, Brave Spirits will bring a distinctly American stamp to these plays and stage them in the company’s signature actor-driven, intimate, and dark style.

Join BST in 2021 for the second half of Shakespeare’s Histories: The Queen’s Storm, directed by Jordan Friend. These four plays dive headfirst into the ferocious conflict spawned by a cruelly bought peace. Confronting the tempest is Margaret of Anjou, a princess from lands abroad who rises to become England’s queen. Faced with threats and treachery from every direction, Margaret’s is a tale of resilience, ambition, and, finally, the very nature of evil, with the rise of Shakespeare’s most famous villain, King Richard III. The Queen’s Storm will mark the first time in the DC-metropolitan region that full productions of the three parts of Henry the Sixth have been professionally staged.

Henry the Sixth Part 1, Henry the Sixth Part 2, Henry the Sixth Part 3, and Richard the Third run December 31, 2020 to April 18, 2021. The full marathon of all eight plays runs June 1 to July 11, 2021, capping off with two marathon weekends in which audiences can see all eight plays in four days.


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