Her Majesty & Sons returns with timely new ‘Richard II’

As America grapples with fallout from the January 6, 2021, insurrection, a once-banned Shakespeare history play asks: Who is a rightful leader?

Her Majesty & Sons, the DC theater group that debuted last summer with its popular gender-bending production of Twelfth Night at the DC War Memorial, returns next month with a production of William Shakespeare’s Richard II in a new 80-minute adaptation by Séamus Miller. The play will run from March 3 to 12, 2022, at the Church of the Resurrection on Capitol Hill, announced producers Anna DiGiovanni and Rachel Felstein, and will be directed by Miller and artistic associate Kathleen Akerley, who collaborated to create the company’s Twelfth Night.

Acacia Danielsson, who will appear as Richard II. Photo by Séamus Miller.

This production marks the first time that a full-length theatrical production has been staged at the Church of the Resurrection, a historically Black church. One of the distinctions of the church, which has recently been renovated, is that it was designed by Calvin T.S. Bent, who designed several key structures in the city in the late 1800s as DC’s first African American architect.

Her Majesty & Sons’ Richard II — with Acacia Danielsson as the tragic king and Ryan Sellers as the king’s usurper, Henry Bolingbroke — is a tale of treason and a timely consideration of the transfer of power that asks: What is the divine right of kings? Can it be justice to unseat a ruler chosen by holy fate? One of the Bard’s most beautiful creations, Shakespeare’s history play Richard II (1595) tells the story of an overthrow that shook a nation to its core and changed the course of history forever.

In a time where uncertainty is the norm and divisions between Americans run deep, Richard II is a sharp investigation of the conflict between legally legitimate power and violent revolution to install a leader who some perceive to be more worthy. In Shakespeare’s time, viewers felt there was a divine right of kings that empowered their seated monarch to rule. Although a modern audience might consider the usurper Henry Bolingbroke a more fitting King of England, Shakespeare’s audience would have seen the overthrow depicted in the play as disturbing and dangerous — beyond the scope of war, it was an act against God.

Her Majesty & Sons is proud to explore these themes of who is a “rightful” leader as America grapples with the fallout of the events of the January 6, 2021, insurrection. Casting a female-bodied actor as Richard further deepens the conversation and sparks fascinating questions about the role of identity and its relation to power.

Says Miller: “This play isn’t just beautiful — it was banned. I want to get back to the dangerous core of this piece by stripping away our modern, secular, cynical opinions about the Divine Right of Kings. In this production, the Holy Spirit is an active, physical presence; God put Richard on the throne — for better or worse — and the very idea of a meritocracy is treason. And while Richard II is not about America, it is a play about legitimacy and the transfer of power, with or without bloodshed, produced on Capitol Hill, one year after January 6. So I expect people to think about that.”

DiGiovanni and Felstein feel Richard II is a dark and invigorating contrast to their previous work together on Twelfth Night and are thrilled to widen Her Majesty & Sons’ artistic range. As leaders of this new theater collective, they are elated to bring together a well-schooled, diverse team of talent to bring this story to life.

In addition to Danielsson and Sellers, the cast of Richard II includes Cerra Caldwell, Francesca Marie Chilcote, Emily Erickson, Terrance Fleming, Shayna Freedman, Ryan Tumulty, and Ring Yuqi Yang. The play will be performed with live instrumental music directed by Emily Erickson.

Costumes will be by producers DiGiovanni and Felstein, reprising their critically acclaimed collaboration from Twelfth Night. They will assist Miller in designing the sets and props, and Miller will design the lights.

Richard II plays March 3 to 12, 2022, presented by Her Majesty & Sons performing at Church of the Resurrection, 501 E Street SE, Washington, DC, Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., and Saturdays at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 and $15 and can be purchased online.

COVID Safety: The producers would like to assure the public they take COVID 19 transmission risk extremely seriously. The cast will be fully masked for the duration of rehearsals, and have agreed to avoid maskless activities during performances. Audiences will be socially distanced, required to show proof of vaccination, and must remain masked for the duration of the show. We believe there is a low-risk path to share space and make theater together; with rigorous testing, masking, and distancing, we are confident we will be able to bring you this beautiful play without sacrificing your sense of safety or the safety of our artists and their communities.

New troupe to gender-bend ‘Twelfth Night’ at the DC War Memorial
A ‘Twelfth Night’ love fest by Her Majesty & Sons, with wit as leitmotif (review by Sophia Howes)


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